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Introduction, p. vii. For "monoecious" read "dioecious." The 
male and female flowers are on difierent plants. 


The basis of this work originally appeared in the 
pages of the Journal of the Board of Agriculture during 
the years 191 1 and 1912 over the signatures of Mr. 
W. P, Elhnore and the present wTiter. Revised by 
Mr. Elhnore, the articles were published in 1913 by 
the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries in the form of 
a pamphlet which is out of print. With the permis- 
sion of the Board, and further revised and amplified 
by Mr. EUmore, they are now issued in book form to 
the pubUc at a price which it is hoped will ensure 
their wide and careful consideration and result in their 
practical appUcation. 

The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries have, of 
course, no responsibihty whatever for this book as 
now issued. 

Mr. Ellmore's thanks are due to the Board for per- 
mission to reprint from the Journal of the Board of 
Agriculture a chapter on " Insect Pests " which appeared 
in the issue of November 1917, and for the loan of 
the blocks of the photographs illustrating this volume. 

The treatise on willow (or osier) cultivation here 
offered to the public is the first attempt in English 
to deal in a compendious and practical manner with 
a much-neglected branch of agriculture. Among other 
deficiencies in home suppUes of raw material which 
the war has revealed, that of willows for basket -making 
purposes has been patent. The output of certain war 
material and the harvesting and marketing of farm 


produce have been seriously imperilled owing to the 
failure of imports from the Continent and elsewhere 
on which basket-makers and willow-workers have 
hitherto relied for half their consumption. This defect 
in the national resources is the more to be deplored 
in that no country in the world is better adapted for 
the cultivation of commercial willows than our own; 
and no crop, granting intelHgent and skilful treatment, 
affords a more profitable return to the grower. Indeed, 
the elder Pliny in his Historia Naturalis (1. xvi, c. 69) 
remarks that Cato held an osier bed in higher esti- 
mation than an olive plantation or than wheat or 
meadow land. 

The writer of the present Introduction is able to 
assure those concerned, from half a century's practical 
experience as a basket-maker and dealer in willows, 
that the responsible author of the ensuing treatise, 
Mr. W. P. Ellmore of Leicester, is second to none in 
this country in possessing the expert knowledge and 
matured judgment necessary to warrant the publica- 
tion of a work of this nature — knowledge and judgment 
based not only on English methods, but on those 
adopted by continental growers in Belgium, Holland, 
France and Germany. 

A relevant word which the present writer alone is 
responsible for may not be inopportune. From time 
immemorial commercial willows have been exclusively 
propagated from cuttings, and the curious may learn 
from Columella's De re Rustica (1. iv, c. 30) that the 
methods employed in ancient Roman times for the 
propagation and cultivation of osiers are substantially 
those described in the present treatise. So enfeebled, 
therefore, have the stocks become by artificial methods 
of reproduction that the rods fall an easy prey to 


insect and fungoid pests. ^ In a letter to the Board 
of Agriculture (October i8, 1918) Mr. Ellmore stated : 
" I have just recently spent most of a fortnight in 
looking round crops in this (Leicestershire) and other 
districts, and I have never seen such general destruc- 
tion before, arising from grubs of various kinds and 
beetles. Varieties that have never been known to be 
attacked have suffered considerably this last season." 
The willow in its natural state, as a monoecious plant, 
is reproduced by cross fertilisation. Under such con- 
ditions it attains great vigour of growth, and its range 
of distribution reaches to the line of perpetual snow. 
An effective method, therefore, of combating destruc- 
tive agencies, especially diseases of a fungoid nature, 
would be to renew and fortify stocks by cross fertili- 
sation, and thus increase their disease- and pest- 
resisting power. Experiments in this direction have 
aheady been made by a leading authority on the 
order of Salices, the Rev. E. F. Linton, who between 
1891 and 1897 was able artificially to hybridise certain 
species, and wiio believes that imder suitable conditions 
he could raise improved osiers by cross fertilisation. 
The present writer drew attention to this aspect of 
willow cultivation during Mr. Walter Runciman's tenure 
of office, who expressed his great interest in the sug- 
gested improvement of osier stocks by cross fertihsation, 
and quite agreed in its possibility as a profitable 
subject for research. The Minister also wTote that he 
would see what he could do to bring it before the 
notice of agricultural scientists. Nothing since has been 
heard of the matter. 

Thomas Okey. 

^ A leaflet entitled " Insect and Fungus Pests of Osiers and 
Willows " is about to be issued by the Board of Agriculture 
and Fisheries. 





Introduction . . . . . • ' • v 

The Cultivation of Basket Willows . . . i 

Soil and Situation — Preparation of Grass and Arable Land — 
Grubbing up Old Beds — Drainage — Supply of Labour — 
Planting — Cultivation or Cleaning — Manuring — Harvesting — 
Cutting the. Maiden Crop — Tying into Bundles and Carting 
— Summary of Directions to iVillow Ciiltivators. 

Expenses and Returns . . . . .27 

Cost of Cultivation and Yield — Cost of Cutting the Crop and 
Carrying Off. 

Varieties of Willows 33 


Preparation and Marketing . . . -52 

Preparation of the Rods — White Rods — Preparation for 
Whitening — Couching — Pieing — Pitting — Peeling for White — 
Breaks — Drying White Rods — Buffing — Suitable Varieties — 
Time of Cutting — Boiling — Tanks for Boiling — Peeling Buff by 
Hand and by Breaks — Drying for Buff — Grading and Tying into 
Bundles — Brown and how to Preserve it. 

Insect Pests of Basket Willows .... 74 
Damage to Leaves and Terminal Buds — Damage to Rods — 
Damage to Stumps— Insect Pests: Willow Aphides — Willow 
Beetles — Willow Sawflies — Willow Moths — Willow Gall 
Midges — Methods of Control. 

Tree Willows -87 

Salix ccerulea or Blue Willow — Salix fragilis or Crack Willow 
— SalLx alba or White Willow — Salix aeruUa. 

Imports and Exports ...... 95 

ix , 



Facing page 


Peeling for White 

1. Planting Chain .... 

2. Grubber ..... 

3. Hooks Suitable for Cutting Willows . . 19 

4. Rods in the Couch ..... 54 

5. Machines for Peeling Willow Rods . . 56 

6. Brakes „ „ „ „ . . ■ 56 

7. White Rods out to Dry .... 69 

8. Grading Willows into Different Lengths . 69 

9. Machine for Tying Willow Rods for Export 72 

10. Steel Peg and Chain for Tightening the 

Bundle ....... 72 

11. Machine for Tying Willow Rods ... 73 

12. ,) )) )) if ,, . . . 73 

13. A Willow Tree 





The term " basket willows " defines those species 
of plants of the genus Salix which are grown for the 
making of basket-ware. 

Growers, merchants, and makers divide basket 
willows into two main groups, viz., (i) Hard rods, and 
(2) Soft rods. WTiile these terms are used in a relative 
sense only, they indicate the main difference existing 
between the two classes. The " hardness " of a rod 
depends upon the proportion of wood to the pith in 
any given rod, as well as upon the closeness in the 
texture of the wood itself. " Hardness," therefore, 
in the sense that it is used by the basket-makers, is 
determined by the working quaHties of the rod for 
basket-making. Hard rods belong to the species S. 
iriandra and 5. amygdalina. The soft varieties belong 
to the species viminalis and are more open grained in 
the wood. They contain more pith, and as the rods 
possess working qualities somewhat inferior to the 
hard rods described above they are termed " Soft 
Rods " by the willow-workers. 

Rods of the species S. viminalis have a very full top, 
and hence they are known in some districts as " full 



tops." Rods of S. purpurea and most of the varieties 
of 5. triandra and 5. amygdalina are more pointed, 
hence the name of " fine tops." The rods of the S. 
purpurea and alha have both a fine top, but not so 
fine as the triandra. In some districts the term 
" osier " is applied to all rods of the viminalis class, 
the rest being called " willows," but both these terms 
are used quite loosely and irrespective of species. 

In making a selection of varieties for planting, a 
grower naturally wishes to choose those sorts that will 
ultimately yield him the best return financially. Owing 
to continental competition the market gardeners' 
basket-making industry has in late years undergone 
changes, the tendency being for English workers to 
produce high-class goods and to leave the making of a 
large quantity of the cheaper baskets to other countries. 
It is, therefore, difficult to find a market for rods which 
are badly grown or of poor quality, but rods of better 
quality when peeled and prepared as " white " or 
" buff," are in more demand than hitherto. 

Growers should certainly plant more than one sort 
to meet variations in season, which may suit one kind 
better than another; but it seems almost essential 
that the larger proportion planted should consist of 
varieties suitable for " white " or " buff" rods. Soft 
rods being vigorous growers are suitable for producing 
large sticks, which are much required by all makei s of 
basket furniture and transit hampers. 

A basket-maker having willow grounds naturally 
grows those sorts which are the most suitable for his 
business, and in cases where a constant local demand 
for a certain class of rod exists, it is generally good 
poHcy on the part of the grower to cater for it, provided 
the soil of his district is suitable. 


Soil and Situation 

Basket willows are to be found growing in river 
valleys in aU parts of the United Kingdom, but the 
most extensive beds are found in the valleys of the 
rivers Thames, Parret, Kennet, Great Ouse, Cam, Soar, 
Trent, Stow and WeUand. 

WiUows of one kind or another will do reasonably 
weU on most soils, and where there is a loam of from 
6 to 8 in., with a stiff marl or clay subsoil, there need 
be Uttle doubt as to the results being satisfactory. 
Ideal land for wiUows should allow of irrigation during 
dry summers. During the months of May to August 
almost every one of the best fine-top kinds will do better 
if aided in this way. 

In order to meet this condition I have employed 
near Loughborough a Hornsby 4 h.p. oil engine, 
mounted on a concrete bed, standing 6 ft. above the 
level of the land; together with a centrifugal pump 
capable of pumping from a weU at the rate of 20,000 
gallons per hour. The water was for the purposes of 
this bed distributed by double-armed delivery pipes 
to portable troughs — 15 ft. long by 7 in. wide and 
6| in. deep; the bottoms being f in. thick and the 
sides f in. These troughs were coimected by an 
additional piece of wood secured under the bottom, 
and two pieces forming flaps at the sides. They 
were extended to the highest point of the land upon 
temporary " horses," consisting of two supports made 
from 2 in. willow poles driven into the ground, and a 
traverse piece across the top, graduated with sufficient 
faU to carry the water to the furthest point, where 
the msdn discharge is made. Fine-top rods aided in 
this way maintain a constant healthy growth. 


It is necessary that the ground should be well 
drained to avoid the injury to the crop which would 
arise from excess of wet during the winter months. 
The life of the heads, the quality of material, and the 
yield are very materially affected by wet and cold. 
5. triandra and 5. purpurea will do best under damp 
and moderately heavy soil conditions. Other varieties, 
chiefly those of the 5. viminalis species (the true osier) 
will thrive under much drier conditions.^ 

It should be clearly understood that wiUows of 
commercial value will not grow on wet, undrained, 
swampy or peaty ground. 

At the same time the situation of the willow holt 
should be such that the long spreading rootlets of the 
plant can draw upon abundance of moisture at all 
times. These conditions can best be fulfilled by low- 
lying land in the neighbourhood of rivers or water- 
courses. The water-course provides a cheap and easy 
means of carriage from the holt to the preparing 

Preparation of Grass and Arable Land 

As a rule arable land is not equal to meadow, because 
it usually lacks that high state of fertility which follows 
the breaking up of old turf. Even in the case of old 
turf it is found that the willow crop greatly benefits 
by the headlands having a good, heavy dressing of 
manure ploughed in. No willow crops grow so well on 
the outside as on the sheltered, inside portion ; conse- 
quently the extra stimulus to the poorer fringe — which 
is exhausted by tree and hedge growth — will bring the 

^ The types of soil best suited to the different varieties are 
discussed in the section on " Varieties of Willows." 


outside more into character with the rest of the field- 
It is sometimes stated that willow growing impoverishes 
the land, but this is not the case, as may be judged 
from the following example: — 

Some twenty-five j'ears ago 40 acres of good, heavy, 
arable land at Thurmaston, near Leicester, were taken 
by a grower for willow cultivation, and after being 
fallowed for one summer to clean it from twitch, etc., 
about 60 loads of well-rotted farmyard' manure to 
the acre were applied before ploughing 12 in. deep. 
The land was planted in the following spring with 
satisfactory results. It was cropped for fifteen years, 
when it was taken over and cultivated by a successor, 
who, during 1909 and 1910, grubbed it up and turned 
it again into corn land. In the autumn of 19 11 it 
yielded eight quarters of excellent marketable wheat 
to the acre, and was sown again with wheat the 
following season, producing seven quarters to the acre. 

Instead of willow growing impoverishing land, the 
heavy foliage which falls each autumn materially 
enriches it, especially if the leaves are turned under 
the soil for some 2 or 3 in. in the wake of the 

Of the recognised ways of breaking up grass land, 
double digging unquestionably produces the best 
results. That method, however, although showing by 
far the best after-returns, is a very expensive one, and 
is only recommended wheie the area is small, or where 
the land is unsuitable for the plough. 

A strong and specially made plough may be em- 
ployed, fitted with a revolving cutting knife in front 
of the coulter to cut the grass about 3 in. deep, followed 
by a skinmier about 5 in. wide, and fitted with a 24-in. 
wheel for the furrow. The breast-plate of this plough 


shduld be much longer and have more throw-over 
than that of the ordinary plough, to enable it to turn 
over the ridge or seam and lay it as flat as possible, and 
plough the soil not less than 9 in. deep. This process 
gives the young roots a better chance of penetrating 
the deeper soil. The cost of this method works out, 
including the after-harrowing, at £'^ 4s. per acre; it 
needs six horses and a more than usually strong 
ploughman, owing to the great depth to be turned up 
and to the exceptional strength required to handle 
and turn round such a heavy plough. It is only 
recommended where there are no specially undesirable 
weeds in the land. 

If weeds such as burnet, docks, reed grass, pilewort, 
and meadow-sweet are present, a double course of 
ploughing to break up the land is very desirable. An 
ordinary plough with two horses should go first and 
take off about 3 in. of turf. This should be followed 
by the stronger plough with six stout horses, as de- 
scribed above, in order to break up the subsoil to a 
further depth of 9 in. This system, which, together 
with the harrowing, costs about £3 i8s. per acre (pre- 
war price), enables the turf to be laid flat at the bottom 
of the furrow, and as the head of the burnet is shielded 
in the turf, it is largely killed. This weed is diflicult 
to eradicate, and if odd patches of it appear again the 
following summer, the most effectual treatment is to 
have the patches forked out. Hoeing tends to pro- 
pagate rather than kill, and if the men employed use 
reasonable care the roots of the willows will not be 
damaged by the forking process. 

In preparing for osiers at Loughborough in 1910 it 
was found that the use of a steam cultivator was the 
most efiicacious way of getting rid of large masses of, 


burnet. The field was dragged both ways to a depth 
of about 4 in. ; then the land was left exposed to the sun 
for several weeks, and the same double operation 
repeated for the purpose of further breaking up the 
turf. After five weeks' longer exposure the process 
was repeated, the drag going twice over the ground on 
each occasion. The last operation completely broke 
up the whole of the turf, the root portion of the burnet 
by this time being withered, although quite alive where 
embedded in the turf ; thus the head part of the plant 
was exposed to the action of the sun in the months of 
September and October, and all growth destroyed. 
The land was then ploughed to an inclusive depth of 
10 in., six horses being engaged for this work. Left 
thus until the first week of the following February, 
the ground was found to be in excellent workable 
condition, and was accordingly harrowed over twice; 
the soil, being broken down like an ordinary garden 
soil, was ready for planting at the end of the month. 

Grubbing up Old Beds 

In cases where an old willow bed is to be replanted 
the presence of the old stumps prevents the use of 
the plough, and the usual practice is to dig up the 
stumps during the autumn and winter months, at the 
time the land is being trenched or dug. The old stumps 
are collected in heaps, and, when dry, they are burnt 
and the ashes scattered over the land. This entails 
much labour and is necessarily costly, the prices paid 
varying considerably up to 2s. per p)erch, according 
to the scale of wages in the district, the nature of 
the soil to be dug, and the number of heads to be 
pulled up. 


I use for grubbing purposes a tool specially de- 
signed to lever the old stumps out of the ground 
(see illustration, Fig. 2). The tool should be of much 
use to willow growers in the future, as it will enable 
the work to be done quicker and at less expense, since, 
when the old stumps have been cleared, the land may 
be ploughed as indicated above. 

In Berkshire and East Anglia the beds are replanted 
with sets in* the following spring, and in both districts 
there are many fields that have been cropped with 
willows continuously for over a hundred years. The 
practice, however, is not advisable in all districts, and 
in Somerset the growers prefer to give their land a 
short change before replanting. There, the land 
which has been cleared of the old stumps and dug over 
is left fallow for a summer ; in the autumn it is ploughed 
up into ridges and replanted with sets during the 
following spring. Quite recently a few of the growers 
in thaf district have grown one crop of wheat on the 
land before replanting it to willows — a practice to be 
commended at the present time. 

Unfortunately the fertile land usually found in the 
willow districts abounds with weeds of various kinds, 
and an energetic effort must be made to clean the land 
by harrowing and dragging it in the spring. In cases 
where the weeds are very numerous and troublesome, 
it may be necessary to summer fallow the land, to clean 
it thoroughly for planting during the following spring. 
It is highly important that such weeds as dock, rushes, 
reeds, grasses, pilewort, meadow-sweet, convolvulus, 
and burnet be cleared off, as they seriously interfere 
with the growth of willows. Such weeds are difficult 
to eradicate by cutting when once the willows have 
been planted. 


Fig. I. — A Flaming Chain, 
Which is provided with rings at 
intervals of every 20 in. At this 
ring tlie set or cutting is pushed 
into the ground. 

Fig. 2. — " Grubber," 

Or tool used for pulling old stools 
from the land when the holt is 
being grubbed up. 

To face page 8. 


WTiatever system is adopted, the aim should be to 
cultivate the soil to a depth of 9 or 10 in. so as to reduce 
it to a loose, friable condition, free from any trouble- 
some weeds. 


Sufficient attention is seldom paid to the question 
of drainage. Before planting willows on fresh land 
it is important that a proper system of drainage should 
be devised and carried out. If this is done, frequent 
and heavjT^ floodings wiU not be harmful to the wiUows. 
Surface drainage must be accomplished by means of 
trenches or grips, and pipe drainage is absolutely useless 
because in a few years the pipes become choked with 
root growths. The number and size of trenches 
required wiU be determined by the character of the 
land, and the quantity of water to be removed. 

Sewage farms are usually thrown up into beds with 
open grips on each side. Although \vdllows grown on 
this system have in most instances proved a complete 
failure, this is entirely owing to the unsuitable varieties 
which have been planted. The variety S. hippo- 
phaijolia is the only species suitable for this intensive 
system of culture. It has stood the test of time and 
yields a quality equal to many rods produced under 
ordinary conditions. For all work where a full top is 
•desirable it is probably unequalled, and will make 
excellent white, bufi or brown. 

Supply of Labour 


It is inadvisable to attempt wiUow growing exten 
sively where there is any scarcity of labour. Nc 


branch of agriculture needs so much expenditure for 
labour per acre as that of willow growing if the ground 
is efficiently cultivated, and the produce properly 
sorted, graded, peeled, and prepared. 

In many districts of England willows are in con- 
siderable demand unpeeled, either green or brown, 
i. e. dried. The difficulty of obtaining an abundant 
supply of labour is in these districts surmounted by 
cutting the crops in the winter — usually from December 
to March — ^when work is slack. But conditions are 
considerably altered when the willows are to be peeled 
for buff, an operation which is generally carried on by 
women in the winter months, or for white, in the 
months of May, June, and July, just at the time when 
labour is in demand. 


Land trenched or ploughed in the autumn will be 
ready for planting as soon as it has settled down into 
a firm bed. This will usually be about the end of 
February or during March, but, if the land was pre- 
pared before the autumn, the sets may be planted any 
time between November and March. 

The general method of planting is to use an Italian 
hemp cord of three-ply with strips of Unen passed 
between the strands of the cord at regular intervals as 
indicators for the sets, the distances at which the 
strips are placed being determined by the variety being 
planted. (For distances of the different varieties see 
particulars given under the heading " Varieties of 
Willows.") This method often throws the sets out 
of their true distances, because in the length recom- 
mended (40 yds.) the cord varies according to the 


dryness or humidity of the atmosphere. This method, 
however, will probably be found as useful as any other 
in the case of a small area. 

A still less expensive way is to use any kind of cord 
as a guide for the straight Knes and to cut a stick 
equal in length to the distances between the plants, 
and using that as a guide for planting. 

To overcome the difficulty created by a shortening 
or lengthening of the cord, a planting chain may be 
used, somewhat similar to those employed by land 
surveyors, with i-in. rings inserted at equal distances 
as guides for the planter. Every third link should be 
fitted with a swivel, to prevent the twisting or kinking 
of the chain (see illustration. Fig. i). 

It is customary for willow growers, aUke in Great 
Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, and Holland, to 
plant closer in the rows than between the rows. Plant- 
ing in squares, i. e. at equal distances between heads 
and rows, but varying according to the natural growth 
of each particular variety, has, however, decided 
advantages. " Square planting " enables the cleaning 
for the first few years to be done by the horse-hoe in 
both directions. The proper ripening and hardening 
of the wood also is dependent on the action of the sun, 
and this system gives simlight free access to the head 
in the growing period. It also stimulates even growth, 
since the roots have an equal quantity of soil all round 
from which to draw"'food. 

Either one- or two-year-old sets may be used for 
propagation purposes, but unquestionably two-year- 
olds are the best. Some growers prefer the one-year- 
old, believing that they throw oft" more shoots the first 
season than two-year-old sets. This belief may have 
some foundation, especially if the two-year-old sets 


are cut from the butts of a badly grown two-year-old 
crop, as they often are in the case of inexperienced or 
careless growers. The practice recommended, how- 
ever, is to leave the best-grown and healthiest one-yeax- 
old rods for two years' growth. 

From such rods six or seven sets can be cut, and it 
is obvious that healthy plants will give a better crop 
than cuttings from dwarfed or badly grown rods. 
When, however, only two or three sets are taken from 
the rod — and this is a very common practice — the 
argument for the younger or one-year-old rod holds 

The third and higher sets cut from a two-year-old 
plant throw out more shoots than the sets cut close to 
the butt end, where the wood is harder and the eyes 
are consequently less active, but, on the other hand, 
there is always a great risk in using one-year-old sets, 
owing to their being thinner and less hardy. With 
dry winds and an absence of showers in the months of 
April and May one-year-old sets will very often die 
or sicken, whilst two-year-old sets, being much stouter 
and their bark far thicker, will withstand the dry time 
more successfully. 

Twelve inches is the best length to cut the sets. 
They must be cut on the slant for inserting in the 
ground; but the end which is to remain out of the 
ground should be cut nearly straight and just above 
an eye. With this extra care very few sets will show 
any dead wood, and a nicely-shaped head will be the 
result. The cutting of the sets must be performed 
with a sharp knife, in order not to bruise the bark or 
wood. They must be buried so that about i in. is 
left exposed above the surface, and the eyes must 
always point upwards. The land, being freshly 


broken up, will subside a little during the summer, 
leaving the head about 2 in. out of the ground. If the 
sets are cut longer the extra length is wasted, because 
the roots seldom strike more than 10 in. below the 
surface, whilst if the sets are left higher out of the 
ground the crop — after the close of the growing season 
— wiU be needlessly exposed to the winter winds, which 
may sway the heads to such an extent as to loosen them 
and indirectly kill them by the admission of frost and 
water. Particularly is this the case with the first, 
or maiden, crop, on account of the smaU root growth. 
The closer the head or stool is to the ground, the less 
it suffers from storms. Many French growers are 
accustomed to plant sets at an angle of 45" on the 
supposition that they thus root more freely. This is 
beUeved to be an error, and is now being discarded in 
favour of vertical planting. 

Sets can be purchased from most wiUow growers 
at prices ranging from 15s. to £1 per 1000 sets, 
including packing for travelling. The price varies 
with the variety of willow, and the age of the 
sets required. Those from two-year-old rods always 
realise a higher price than those cut from one-year- 

When buying it is indispensable that every set 
should be true to its kind, so as to produce an even and 
true crop. This point cannot be sufficiently empha- 
sised. The growing of a mixed crop of willows is to be 
guarded against as the taUer varieties would overshadow 
the shorter varieties and the coarser and more robust 
growers would crowd out the slower growing varieties. 
The mixed crop, too, when cut would be troublesome 
to peel as the dissimilar rods would attain their best 
peeling period at different times. 


Having regard to the importance of sets being 
supplied from healthy cuttings, a guarantee should be 
obtained from the supplier, who, if he is a man that 
understands his business, will have no hesitation in 
giving it, that the cuttings are true to their respective 
names or kinds, and cut from rods which were not 
in the previous season attacked by aphis or any 

Growers should always plant more than one sort to 
meet variations in seasons, which may suit one kind 
better than another. It is indispensable that every 
species or variety be planted true to its kind. This 
point cannot be sufficiently emphasised, because 
different kinds produce marked contrasts in quality, 
even when the treatment is identical, and when this 
is the case the market for high-class manufactured 
goods is either lost or a much lower price reaUsed. 
Nothing from the standpoint of the skilled worker is 
worse than to see several sorts of material in his product. 
By planting several sorts the requirements of an all- 
round trade will be met, and the longest time possible 
be gained for harvesting the crop. Between the sap 
rising in the earliest and the latest sorts there is some- 
times a period of three weeks. 

Cultivation or Cleaning 

After the ground is planted it is most essential that 
all weeds should be kept down by hoeing. Weeds, if 
allowed to spread, not only affect the growth of the 
willows, but also the quality of the material. Especi- 
ally is this the case with the finest and choicest kinds 
of willows when one year old. Any saving effected 


by sparing the hoe is more than lost when the crop is 
to be used for white or buff peeling, because the 
grasses have then to be sorted out by hand — a tedious 
and cold operation at that period and involving tying 
up twice. The net result would be a saving of ;^i 
in the summer, and an expenditure of £1 5s. in the 

In the case of maiden crops, hoeing right up to 
August I is resorted to, in order to maintain the 
surface of the soil in a loose condition. If this is 
allowed to bake or crack, many heads wiU be found 
dead the following spring, and the grower will be 
fortunate if failure to keep the top soil open does not 
render the crop subject/ to disease. It should be re- 
membered that a heavy strain is imposed on the plants, 
which are endeavouring to develop simultaneously a 
shoot growth above ground, and a root grow^th below. 
For lack of sufficient hoeing during the first year many 
acres may be destroyed by green fly and honey dew, 
especially if the spring proves to be a dry one; and 
this not only results in a year's loss of growth, but also 
necessitates planting again the following season. In 
the case of older heads the hoeing ought not to be dis- 
continued so long as the men can move freely in the 
crop, generally up to the middle of June. By that 
time the willows begin to make such rapid growth 
that they smother all the undergrowth, and only 
in the outside rows will any further attention be 

Several methods are adopted for keeping the land 
clean. One found most suitable in Leicestershire is 
the employment of a three-tined horse-hoe with an 
arrow-head shaped blade on the front and two L-shaped 
blades behind. This can only be used if great care is 


exercised to prevent barking the head by striking it 
with the hoe, thereby occasioning considerable ex- 
haustion of the plant, and consequently a defective 
crop. Moreover, this hoe can only be brought into 
play for the first year or two, whilst the heads are 
sufficiently small, and the spaces allow a pony or 
small horse to travel between the rows. A swan- 
necked hoe will usually be found the best tool for 
this purpose. 

For the purpose of filling up a bed in after years, 
it is a good plan to allocate a small portion of the 
ground devoted to each variety for transplanting 
purposes. When necessary take up an entire plant, 
cutting off all the rods except two of the best grown 
ones, and nicely and cleanly cutting back the roots; 
place this in the space from which you have taken a 
dead head and leave it to grow for two years, after 
which you may cut it down, and by this means keep 
your ground in a thoroughly healthy planted-up 

In Lancashire where the variety Dicky Meadows 
is extensively grown a unique method of cultivation 
is practised. In the early spring a double-breasted 
ridging plough is run down the centre of the rows 
one way; this breaks up the soil and banks it near 
the heads of the plants, which are in this district 
planted from 9 in. to 10 in. apart and 21 in. between 
the rows. After the soil has assumed a nice crumbly 
condition, a scuffier is run down between the rows, 
thus clearing the soil from the heads and levelling 
the whole. 

The Board of Agriculture issue a leaflet (No. 112) 
which contains useful advice on the suppression of 



Many of the willow holts are flooded during the 
winter months, and the thick sediment left contains 
valuable plant food. In such instances no other 
dressing is required. It is a good plan to give poor 
holts a top dressing with farmyard manure, by the 
aid of which the ^ield is said to be increased. Mr. 
Hutchinson, of the Midland Agricultural College, 
found that a dressing of sulphate of ammonia increased 
the length of the rods grown, but states that the result 
of applying superphosphate (36 per cent, soluble) at 
the rate of 5 cwt. per acre, sulphate of potash at the 
rate of 3 cwt. per acre, and sulphate of anmionia at 
the rate of i| cwt. per acre, together at four different 
centres, showed that the plots had received advantage 
from the treatment, but the increased crop did not pay 
for the cost of tl^e manures. 

It has been found that lime considerably sweetens 
and fertilises soils having a sluggish drainage and a 
tendency to grow moss, but hme may not be suitable 
to all classes of soil and all situations. The practical 
agriculturist will determine for himself whether its 
application is suitable or otherwise. It may be of 
considerable interest to growers to know that willow 
peelings, up to now regarded as a by-product of no 
value, form excellent manure for potato growing and 
other purposes. It was demonstrated in 1906 by 
Messrs. Sutton & Sons on their experimental grounds 
at Reading, that this manure, used at the rate of 
30 tons per acre, produced a hea\ier crop than farm- 
- yard manure at the same rate. The peelings are 
allowed to he on the ground and rot for twelve months 


or more before use. Peelings have also been used with 
success for cucumbers and vegetable marrows, and 
celery grown by the aid of willow peelings always 
obtained first prize at a Midland Counties show. The 
peelings, when ground down into a fine powder, are 
found to be a fine fertiUser for many kinds of 


The termination of the growth and the ripening of 
the wood will be determined better by the fall of the 
leaf than by the calendar. This stage varies in England 
from the end of October to the middle of November. 
When the leaf has nearly all fallen the rods are ready 
for cutting, but it is not advisable to commence cutting 
at this early period except for the purpose of buffing, 
which operation should be begun on the earhest possible 
date, in order to take full advantage of the short mild 
season before Christmas. 

It will be found profitable to leave a portion of the 
one-year-old crop standing for two-year-olds. This 
undoubtedly gives the heads a rest, and the succeeding 
crop of one-year-olds will be found taller and heavier 
than that from the heads which have been cut each 
year. This practice might be carried out about every 
fifth or sixth year. Another good practice is to cut 
out with a sharp knife or fine shears all the smaller or 
rough growths. This will amply repay the grower for 
the labour expended, for, if left on the heads, these 
worthless growths will draw a certain amount of 
vitality from the head, and ultimately get smothered 
by the more vigorous rods, and need to be sorted out 





when cut. There is always a very keen demand for 
weU-grown two-year-old rods of good quality, either 
as buff or white, for manufacturing strong hampers, 
such as are largely used in the hosiery-making dis- 
tricts, as well as in Yorkshire and Lancashire. These 
two-year-olds are required for staking, or lid and 
bottom sticks, around which the one-year-old rods 
are worked. 

Cutting is usually done by men with knives illus- 
trated (Fig. 3). In no circumstances must this part 
of the work be performed in a sUpshod or careless 
manner. The knife must be inserted on the outer 
side of the rods, and cut inwards and upwards, quite 
close to the head, \vith a sharp and clear cut, free from 
split wood or torn bark. When the cutters are careless 
many smaU spurs will remain on the head, and since 
these spurs form the butt end of the rod, much weight 
of material is sacrificed. Moreover, as the crop is 
sold by weight, a needless financial loss is the result. 
The spurs also invariably die off during the next grow- 
ing season, dead wood accumulates, and stiU further 
and longer spurs are left when cutting time again comes 
round, until in the course of a few years the head, 
which should at no period be larger than a cocoanut, 
is frequently found as big as a cabbage. Round this 
accumulate moss and various fungoid growths, and the 
bearing capacity of the head is reduced in some in- 
stances quite 50 per cent. WTien some of the spurs 
live, as frequently happens, they throw off many 
small and half-developed rods, tending to the earlier 
exhaustion of the head. Cutting the maiden crop, 
over which too much care cannot be sho\^Ti, and on 
which the future compact head-formation depends, 
should be done by day workers. Afterwards cutting 


is invariably done on piece-work terms. All sickly 
heads should be removed each winter, and the vacant 
places filled by well-grown one-year-olds of entire 
length, or tall-grown two-year-olds cut off at the 
start of the two-years' growth, A still better method 
is to set apart a small plot of ground and grow yearly 
a sufficient number of each variety for transplanting, 
in which case the cuttings may be set 12 in. square. 
The tap root and also the longest and weakest of the 
fibres should be shortened a little with a sharp knife, 
care being taken to leave no ragged wounds to bleed 
when active growth should be in progress. Only one 
shoot, the longest and strongest, should be left on the 
head. A healthy transplanted maiden head will never 
fail to establish itself. In this way the life may be 
prolonged almost indefinitely. A willow ground 
cultivated as directed will last fully twenty years in a 
full-bearing condition, and still be a profitable source 
of income for ten years longer. 

The Maiden Crop 

Good first-year crops are sometimes grown on the 
best land, but more generally the crop is of little value 
owing to the plant having to make root development 
and shoot above at the same time, and at times the 
crop does not pay for cutting. If allowed to remain 
on the head, they would only produce poor second- 
year rods, and thus the financial result for the second 
year would also be poor. The majority of growers, 
therefore, make it a practice to cut the maiden crop 
during the first winter which follows the planting. 
The object of this cutting is to give the grower the 


chance of securing a satisfactory crop during the 
second season. 

On the contrary, a well-known grower states that 
the maiden crop should never be cut until the second 
year, on the ground that the young plants wiU have 
expended little energy in shoot formation and root 
growth will have been encouraged; but when this is 
the case the rods are extremely tender, and on acco^mt 
of the plant not having proper root support the rods 
will be found only suitable for sale as brown, that is, 
with the bark on. The third-year crop will compensate 
for aU previous loss. 

Tying into Bundles and Carting 

As soon as the willow cutters have cleared sufficient 
ground they proceed to tie the rods into bundles, 
often called bolts or bunches, with willow bands of 
regulation sizes. The size varies with each wiUow 
area throughout the country, but is constant for each 
particular district. 

In the Midlands the bundles are tied each 36 in. in 
girth, the band being fixed 8 in. from the butts. 
Somerset growers tie up in " bolts " of 38 in. The 
bolt of Berkshire and East Anglia is recognised as 
42 in. in girth. In the Isle of Ely and East Anglia the 
rods are bunched green with a girth of 45 in. 

Carting off the ground in many instances presents 
a very serious obstacle, owing to the uncertainty of 
the weather and the natural conditions of the soil in 
the months between December and March, when much 
of the cutting is done. I have introduced and had 
in use a special vehicle for twenty years, and have 



found it possible to use it in almost all conditions 
of the weather, when it was possible for the cutters 
to work. It is a very lightly constructed vehicle, and 
the wheels are boxed so that there are no spokes 
visible, and two iron tyres about 3| in. wide by f in. 
thick are placed on each side of the wheel, which 
enables it to be run over the ordinary macadamised 
roads without detriment to the wood of which the 
wheel is formed. The axle is an ordinary Warners 
patent. The body is raised from the axle by V-shaped 
supports, and another support of the same character 
from the centre of the body to the inside flange of the 
axle. Two loose swing-hooks are placed on the sides 
for roping the load down. The total weight of the 
cart is under 6 cwt., and there is not the slightest 
difficulty in drawing off the ground with an ordinary 
cob loads of from 20 to 22 cwt. 

Dimensions — 



Length inside bottom of body . 



Width „ 



Depth „ „ „ 


Length „ top of body 



Width „ 



Depth from ground over all . 



Diameter of wheel 





Width over axle caps 



Summary of Directions as to Willow Cultivation 

I. Cuttings should always be used for planting a 
willow ground. If two-year-old cuttings are used, 
arrangements should be made twelve months before 


they are required, in order to ensure not only that the 
requisite sorts are delivered, but that the sets are cut 
from strong, healthy stock. Some surplus plants should 
also be planted for replacing any sickly or dead heads 
that may be found in the ground in the follo\\ing year. 
Care should be taken in Ufting surplus cuttings not to 
fracture the roots. Failing two-year-old rods, strong, 
healthy, full-length one-year-old rods may be used. 
If two-year-old rods are used, they should be cut 
off at the top of the first year's growth. 

2. After planting, it is of the greatest importance 
for the first two years that a good loose tilth should 
be maintained on the top, especially where the soil is 
strong and liable to crack in a dry period. The rows 
must .be kept clean by hoeing, in order to prevent 
weeds from choking or retarding the growth of the 

3. WiUows wiU not thrive on water-logged land, in 
peat bog, or in dry soil of a sandy character. The 
best soil for a wiUow ground is a strong loam, in a 
position where it can be flooded at will, though the 
land must be well drained to provide against an 
abnormally rainy season. 

4. In England wiUows may safely be planted at any 
time from the end of October to the middle of April, 
March being, perhaps, the best time if autumn planting 
is not resorted to. October planting is in aU. respects 
equal to spring planting, and allows other work to be 
done, such as cutting, sorting, and preparing for the 
cleaning and peeling season. 

5. If possible, a good cultivator should be employed 
to break up the ground ; this is more economical than 
ordinary digging, and almost as good in its results. 
This work should be carried out in ample time, to make 


certain of the land being in proper condition for the 
subsequent planting, for, if the cuttings are stuck into 
unbroken clods of soil, success can scarcely be expected 
to follow. 

6. The best sorts should be procured, no matter at 
what cost, for basket willows. The cuttings must be 
healthy, and not have been retarded in the previous 
season by attacks of insects, and they must be adapted 
to the requirements of the market for which the produce 
is intended, A mixed crop is only of small value, 
whilst it involves a deal of extra labour at peeling time. 
Moreover, a little additional trouble and expense at 
the outset is well repaid, since a willow ground will 
last from twenty to thirty years if properly cut and 
cared for. AH new plantations should be protected 
against ground game, for even the shoots of the bitter 
varieties of willows are not proof against rats, rabbits, 
or hares. 

7. After the cuttings have been planted, the ground 
around them should be thoroughly trodden down; 
if this is done in a slovenly manner many cuttings 
will die. 

8. If the bark of a cutting is much chafed or entirely 
broken, the cutting should not be used. 

9. Basket willows will not pay if planted in small, 
out-of-the-way comers. Any patches of spare land 
may be planted for poles or timber, but not for basket 

10. Willows make good wind screens or nurse trees, 
and the species known as S. repens wiU grow on 
the seashore sand-dunes. It forms an excellent 
shelter for seaside gardens and promenades, and is 
largely used at the best French coast resorts and golf 
grounds for that purpose. Some willows will grow on 


land occasionally overflowed with salt water, provided 
it is suitable in other respects, whilst slightly brackish 
tidal water suits all vigorous-growing sorts, as can be 
seen on the islands and banks of the Thames, Severn, 
Trent, "etc. 

11. Willows, when planted on the banks of rivers, 
possess an additional value by preventing denudation ; 
their long, fibrovjs roots have great range and tenacity, 
and the shoots, if cut every two or three years, can be 
readily sold as sticks. 

12. The inclusive cost of planting good-quality 
basket willows was before the war about £1 5s. per 
thousand or a little over, based on 19,360 plants per 
acre, the number necessary if planted 18 in. by i8in., 
which is the best distance for the choicer sorts. 

13. All cuttings should be inserted in the ground 
from 10 in. to 11. in. 

14. The number of cuttings required for an imperial 
acre is as follows : — 

Planted 16 in. by 16 in. 
18 in. by 18 in. 
20 in. by 20 in, 
22 in. by 22 in. 
24 in. by 24 in. 
27 in. by 27 in. 
30 in. by 30 in. 
36 in. by 36 in. 









15. WTien cuttings are planted with a view to grow- 
ting timber trees, all the first-year shoots should be cut 
to the ground, and any defective or crooked shoots 
removed at the end of the second year, leaving straight, 
clean stems to grow on for timber. 


1 6. Pollarding a willow destroys its value as 
timber suitable for bat-makers. The produce from 
a pollard tree can only be used for fencing purposes ; 
moreover, the head harbours aU kinds of noxious 
insects, and wet and frost soon destroy the heart of 
the trunk, ' . 


expenses and returns 
Cost of Cultivation and Yield 

The cost of preparing the land and establishing a 
basket-\villow holt varies much more than in the case 
of the ordinary farm crop; consequently there is also 
a \\Tide variation in the returns per acre. The initial 
outlay is very heavy, and in some cases £12 per acre 
is expended on double digging alone, but ploughing 
is cheaper and is probably quite satisfactory. It is 
important to bear in mind that a willow ground poorly 
managed wll not pa}^ but well managed will return 
good profit. WiUow growing certainly requires an 
exact knowledge of the nature of the land, the require- 
ments of the willow plants, the treatment of the rods, 
and the marketing of the same. 

The rent of the land too varies considerably. In the 
Somerset area the rent of ^viUow-growing land is 
generally between £4 and £5 per acre, and little can 
be obtained at a lower price. In the Soar Valley and 
Trent Basin the rent ranges from £1 los. to £2 los. 
per acre when the ground consists of several acres. 
Higher rentals are paid where the ground is less than 
an acre. In the Isle of Ely the rent is nearer £1 to 
£1 1 OS. per acre. In Berkshire much of the "vsillow land 
is of little value for any other purpose, but in the best 
wiUow-growing districts in that country the rent 
ranges from £1 los. to £3. 



It is now proposed to indicate the approximate cost 
of preparing, planting, cultivating, and cutting per 
acre, and to give estimates for the probable yield for 
the first three years. 

In estimates of this sort very great variations are 
possible in the cost of labour, rents and rates, and, what 
is of even greater importance, in the cost of the cuttings. 
These were purchasable at from los. to £i per looo, 
before the war, and thte number required may vary 
from 24,500 per acre if planted 16 in. by 16 in. to only 
4840 when set out for the purpose of growing sticks. 
The following particulars should, however, enable any 
intending grower to estimate, approximately, the cost 
to him, according to local conditions. The figures for 
cuttings refer to selected healthy cuttings about 12 in. 
long, true to name, and of the best varieties of triandra, 
varieties costing 15s. per 1000 at the grower's. 

The first column represents labour at a wage of 
£1 $s. per week. The second column, which represents 
the equivalent cost in the spring of 191 8, is based upon 
the foreman's labour of £2 a week and ordinary 
willow-ground workers at £1 17s. per week. The 
figures are more or less approximate from the fact 
that no extensive planting has come to my notice this 

Ploughing old Turf, per acre 
19,360 Cuttings (18 in. by 18 in.), 
including packing and carriage . 
Planting, if let by the piece . 
First year — hoeing four times over 
Rent and Rates .... 
Cutting and Carrying off 
Interest on outlay 


In 1918. 

£ s- 



s. d. 







I 5 



2 10 



I 15 






I 5 



26 15 




The returns to be set against this expenditure vary 
very much, and are dependent on the season. Some 
land planted at Barrow, Leicestershire, with Black 
Maul, Black Germans, Mottled Spaniards, and Long 
Skins, produced two tons to the acre, and these were 
sold at £4 2s. 6d. per ton on the ground after it was cut, 
whilst in another case many acres were planted the 
following spring, and, owing to the very hot and dry 
summer, the crop did not pay for cutting. This is 
the usual risk experienced by farmers, but it may be 
desirable to state that whilst \\'illow gro\\ing is indis- 
putably a profitable undertaking, it is nevertheless 
always more or less risky in the first year. WTien the 
heads are once estabhshed they go on yielding for many 
years. 1 

The second year's outlay is much reduced, whilst the 
returns are much greater and involve less risk, owing to 
the plants having made a Uberal growth of root during 
the first year, so giving additional support to the 
shoots : — 


In 1918. 

£ 5- 


£ 5. d. 

Rent and Rates .... 

I 15 

I 15 

Hoeing four times over 

2 10 

3 10 

Cutting and Carrying off (at ys. 6d. 

and IDS. per ton) 

I 10 


Incidentals and filling in plants that 

faUed ..... 


17 6 

5 per cent, interest on first year's 

outlay ..... 

I 5 

I 12 

7 15 

9 14 6 

The returns may be estimated at four tons of green 

rods to the acre, sold in the Midlands at £5 per ton in 


^ The above figures deal exclusively with the crop when 
sold as green. 


The third-year conditions for the grower greatly 
improve, and the expenditure may be regarded as 
typical of that for the next twenty years : — 


In 1918. 

I s. 


i S. d. 

Rent and Rates .... 

I 15 

I 15 

Hoeing three times 

I 10 

2 12 6 

Cutting and Carrying off 

2 5 


Incidentals, filling in, etc. 


12 6 

5 per cent, interest on first year's 

outlay ..... 

I 5 

I 12 

7 5 

9 12 

The returns should be six tons of green rods at £5 
per ton (this being an average price for first quality 
and growth), or £30 in 1915-16. 

By this time the crop is at its best for quality, and 
it should remain good for many years, provided proper 
care is taken and reasonable seasons prevail. Much 
heavier yields in certain exceptionally good seasons 
have been known ; in fact, twelve tons to the acre of 
green one-year-olds have been cut, though such a 5deld 
is seldom obtained, and when it is the yield is invari- 
ably far less the following season, owing, no doubt, to 
the abnormal drain on the plants. 

The net cash results as shown thus work out as 
follows, taking present-day figures (1917-18) as a basis 
for calculation : — 

Expenditure. Receipts. 

£ s. d. £ s. d. 

First year . . 33 17 o First year . . 850 

Second year . 9 14 6 Second year ^ . 32 o o 

Third year . . 9120 Third year 2 . 56 o o 

53 3 6 96 5 o 

^ Providing the maiden crop was cut. 

* A crop grown at Mount Sorrel, Leicestershire, which 


Cost of Cutting the Crop and Carrying off 

Although the following prices apparently show great 
variations, the actual net results are very much the 
same in whatever district the work is undertaken, it 
being a question entirely whether the bundles are 
tightly or loosely tied and the height that the cutter 
fixes his band from the butts. Capable cutters in 
any of the districts named, vdW. during the short days 
of the cutting season earn with a full week's employ- 
ment from £2 to £2 10s. Very expert men considerably 
exceed this amount in the longer days of the early 
spring. The system of pajmient and the methods of 
cutting vary considerably in each of the districts in 
which willows are mainly grown. 

In the Midland Counties embracing Leicestershire 
and Nottinghamshire, 3s. per score was the price paid 
in 1918 for bundles 36 in. in circumference, with. the 
band about 8 in. from the butt. In the Isle of 
Ely the price was 4s. per score, and the size of the 
bundle 45 in. In other parts of East AngUa 4s. 8d. 
to 5s. 6d. per score was paid — according to the 
size of the crop — for bundles 42 in. Berkshire was 
paying 6s. to ys. per score for bundles 42 in. In Somer- 

tumed oS seven tons to the acre, realised /8 per ton in 191 8 
when cut and bundled as grown. The working quality of 
this material, we understand, was of the best. In East 
AngUa, where the crops on the whole in 191 7 did not do 
well, as much as £10 per ton was paid for well-grown best 
quality Long Small, Threepenny, and Small Middles boro', but 
this additional price is only atJout equivalent to the Barrow 
sale, because the Small, the Large, and Rough have all been 
thrown out, and of course will not realise anj'thing near the 
same price. In both instances the material was bought for 

"Dicky Meadows " have sold freely by auction at from £10 
to £52 per ton in the season of 19 17-18. 


set for 38 in. bundles (weeds included) the price paid 
was 5s. 6d. per score. In Lincolnshire the system 
usually adopted is to pay by the chain of 22 yd. — i^d. 
per chain. This system is also employed in Lancashire, 
where the payment runs from 2d. to 2|^. per chain, 
the price being entirely dependent upon the fuliy 
planted condition or otherwise, and weight of the crop. 
Another conmion way of letting by the piece is to 
pay ys. 6d. (pre-war price) per ton for a one-year-old 
crop, including the carrying of the bundles to various 
points on the bed for collection by the carters. The 
prices vary according to the sizes of the rods, the larger 
varieties being the cheaper. The last-named manner 
of piece-work obviates all dispute as to whether the 
bundles are tied up tightly or loosely. 



Much has from time to time been written on the 
botanical side of this subject, but such information 
is of small practical use to growers or workers. 

The description given below of the choicest known 
varieties of willows for basket-making purposes, is, 
therefore, written exclusively for the guidance of the 
practical grower, and not from the botanical point of 
view. The general market prices will be found attached 
to some of the choicest and best varieties, grown under 
the best conditions, for Leicestershire and Nottingham- 
shire productions. These prices ma\' scarcely be realised 
for many years, but owing to the great shortage of 
labour associated with the war very considerable areas 
of willow ground have become derelict and overrun 
with weeds; and seeing that this equally applies to 
France, where willows of equal quaUty are produced, 
it is reasonable to suppose that the best willows, 
though they may not continue at these present 
fancy prices, will for a number of years command 
extremely profitable and lucrative prices. The varie- 
ties to which prices are not fixed are of a more 
ordinary kind, and, generally speaking, do not realise 
anything approaching the prices given for the best 



Salix triandra 

This is a species embracing numerous varieties, 
known to the basket-maker in some districts as fine 
tops, in contradistinction to the many varieties of the 
common osier (5. viminalis) which are known as full 
tops or soft rods. The former species supplies the 
varieties most suitable for peeling white or buff as 
one-year-olds. Many varieties of triandra are less 
suitable for two-year-olds, owing to closeness of the 
grain of the wood and the limited growth made 
in'^one season by the choicest sorts. Some of the 
largest-growing varieties of this group are more open 
in the grain, and consequently better suited for pro- 
viding the larger rods required by hamper -makers. 
After standing on the head three years this species 
sheds its bark, a feature not common to other kinds of 
Salix, and perhaps affording the readiest method of 
identification. All varieties of this species Ijirive on a 
cool, strong loam, and make the best growth in a wet 
season. In a dry period they are very liable to honey 
dew, green fly, and gall attack. 

The following are varieties of 5. triandra : — 
" Black Maul," a variety believed to have been 
brought prominently to the notice of the trade by a 
practical worker named Maul in Leicestershire, is one 
of the best willows for all kinds of baskets subjected to 
long and hard service. It is extensively and chiefly 
grown in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire ; shoots, 
4 ft. to 6 ft. 6 in. long; requires a rich, loamy soil, 
with strong, cool subsoil; is a heavy cropper, and 
always reahses good prices — before the war £4 to £5 
per ton as green one-year-old (in 1917 up to £8), and 
£24 to £26 per ton (in 1918 from ^^0 to £85) as 


white or buff. Plant 18 in. by 18 in. For the first 
two years this willow has a tendency to grow curly- 
butted (with a bend at the butt-end), but as the heads 
get established and the produce hea\ier, this objection- 
able feature disappears. Consequently close planting 
is recommended in order to secure a straighter growth. 

" Black Italian/' a superior and harder willow, 
thrives best on a damp, alluvial loam, and its fertility 
is increased by temporary floods. A " shy " cropper, 
it is not extensively grown, except on land especially 
suited to it, when it wiU produce six tons of one-year-old 
green to the acre. This realises high prices, and is 
much sought after by makers of the finest baskets or 
chairs in buff or white. As hufi, its colour is a rich, 
dark gold, and it whitens equally weU. £26 per ton 
was not, before the war, an unusual price for white or 
buff. In 1918 it fetched £60 to £85. Shoots, 3 ft. 
to 6 ft. Plant 18 in. by 18 in. 

" Black German " ranks amongst high-class willows, 
and is easily recognised by a wa\'y appearance in the 
growth of the shoot. Less hard than some of the varie- 
ties, it is suited to a medium loam with good drainage ; 
it will resist blight and thrive through a dry period 
better than many other varieties of S. triandra. Shoots, 
3 ft. 6 in. to 6 it. 6 in. long, a heavy cropper, and 
straight at the butt. This willow often cuts six tons 
to the acre, worth as green £4 per ton, or as buff or 
white £25 to £26 per ton (in 1918 from £60 to £80). 
It does not strip weU for white from the water, 
and peels best when cut from the head about May i. 
Produces a good buff. Plant 18 in. by 18 in. 

" French," Uke many of the varieties of the triandra 
species, produces both light and dark coloured bark 
A superior slender working willow; shoots, from 4 ft. 


to 6 ft. long. Equally suitable for white or buff. 
Thrives on upland soil, and does not require so much 
moisture as many other varieties of the triandra. A 
liberal producer, and ready seller at good prices. As 
green it realised £4 los. to £^ per ton ; white or buff, 
£24 to ;^26 per ton (in 1918 ;^55 to £60). Plant 18 in. 
by 18 in. (This must not be confused with the " French 
Osier " S. viminalis.) 

" Pomeranian," a variety imported and highly 
prized by the late Mr. William Scaling. A high-class 
willow closely resembling " French," less vigorous in 
growth, but harder in quality; an ideal willow for 
straightness ; long and slender; shoots average from 
3 ft. to 5 ft. ; admirably adapted for the finest willow 
work. Equally suited for white or buff, and a ready 
seller at very high prices. As white, it had been known 
to realise £34 per ton before the war, and sold readily 
at £95 in 1918. Plant 18 in. by 18 in. 

" Counsellor," first brought prominently into the 
trade by one of the oldest wholesale willow-working 
families in England named Mills, of Leake, Leicester- 
shire, who employed this willow, which at that time 
was the best variety known, in the manufacture of all 
kinds of flat skein work, such as chair-back screens, 
washstand screens, table mats, etc. It is one of the 
best willows known, but has been neglected in its 
cultivation, because that branch of the business to 
which it was adapted has fallen on evil times and has 
been largely captured by the French. It is suited 
to a rich cool loam, and makes a growth of from 3 ft. 
to 5 ft. in the season. It yields a beautiful coloured 
buff and an equally good coloured white, extremely 
tough, and grows straight, and in many ways similar 
to the " Pomeranian," excepting that its bark is of a 


decidedly dark greyish colour. I am inclined to think 
by its general habits and growth that it is a darker 
skinned variety of the " Pomeranian," the skin of 
which is light. A noticeable feature of the triandra 
species, is that many of the varieties produce a light 
and dark skin. The " Counsellor " is weU worth pro- 
pagating owing to the extremely high price it com- 
mands. In 1 918 this willow sold most freely at £65 
per ton, white, and £yo per ton, buff. Plant 18 in. by 
18 in. 

It should be pointed out that the sales which are 
here referred to are exclusively of Nottinghamshire 
and Leicestershire material. The same prices are 
unrealisable for material grown- in any other part of 
England. This is entirely due to the soil conditions 
of the areas in which these willows are grown, yielding 
a result which is not found in any other part of the 
country. Although varieties have been transplanted 
from these districts to many other parts of England, 
the working quaUty is very much below the production 
of the special districts referred to above. 

" Brilliant," a variety from the south-west of France, 
first brought to this country by myself in the spring 
of 1916. It has obtained its name " Brilliant " from 
the fact that when whitened it has an unusually 
bright clean appearance. It does well on alluvial 
soils with a heavy tendency. It is a heavy cropper, 
and makes an annual growth of from 4 ft. to 
6 ft. 6 in. Plant 20 in. by 20 in. 

" Sarda," another French rod discovered and 
brought to England at the same time as the pre- 
ceding one. This willow in the districts to which 
it is indigenous makes the longest and slenderest rod 
of any of the triandra varieties. Its working quality 


ranks amongst the first, and although it attains the 
height of 7 ft. 6 in. and frequently above, its Small 
is quite of a good working quality. It cannot be 
regarded as a heavy cropper, which probably accounts 
for the unusual quaUty of the Small, and will when 
on the market command one of the top prices. A 
rod that it is certainly well worth cultivating where 
the soil suits. It was found growing on a strong 
marl, and probably will do equally well under the 
same conditions in this country. Plant 20 in. by 
20 in. 

" Mottled Spaniards," the best of the several rods 
known as " Spaniards," and quite different from a rod 
called by the same name and grown in East AngHa. 
Is easily distinguishable by small red blotches, produc- 
ing a mottled appearance on the bark on the upper 
part of the rod, when the growth is completed and the 
wood ripe. A heavy cropper ; shoots, 5 ft. to 7 ft. 6 in. 
long; fairly sound quality; makes useful two-year- 
olds ; suited to all general work ; prefers a damp, cool 
warp or loamy soil, well drained ; and makes equally 
good white or buff. Plant 20 in. by 20 in. 

" Lincolnshire Dutch," a vigorous grower closely 
resembling " French," described above, and chiefly 
grown in the waterbasin of the Trent (Gainsborough 
district) ; much prized by growers of that locality as a 
good cropper. Thrives well on a heavy warp land, 
subject to freshets of water. Not regarded by the 
high-class basket-maker as a first-quality willow. 
Shoots, 4 ft. to 6 ft. 6 in. long. Plant 18 in. by 18 in. 
• " Stone Rod," the hardest-wooded of the triandra 
species, makes the choicest white or buff. Its natural 
defect is that it grows so bent at the butt — a feature 
associated with all the very best quality rods. This 


can be partly counteracted by close planting, which 
compels the shoot to apply upwards for light and air. 
This \villow thrives in the valley of the Severn and some 
parts of Gloucestershire and Somersetshire. It has 
been tried on several kinds of soil in Leicestershire, 
but with comparatively little success ; it is regarded as 
a " shy " cropper, but very valuable. Shoots, from 
2 ft. to 5 ft. long. Suited to a damp, allmdal, warpy, 
clay soil. Plant 16 in. by 16 in. Worth in 1918 
£100 a ton when graded into three sizes. 

" Rayns's Ten-feet," a \dgorous and heavy cropper 
of the Spaniard class. Attains a length of from 6 ft. 
to 10 ft., and is principally employed for white hampers. 
Suited to a damp, cold loam. Plant 20 in. by 20 in. 
for one-year-olds. 

" Black Holland," one of the largest and longest 
of this species, is believed to have been brought by the 
Dutch and planted first in the East Anglia low country, 
where it thrives better than on the water-basin of 
Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. On a favourable 
soil it is a vigorous and heavy cropper. The shoots 
are 6 ft. to 8 ft. long, and it makes an excellent two- 
year-old white. Grows best on strong warp land. 
Plant 22 in. by 22 in. for one and two years' gro\\i;h, or, 
if for covert purjxjses, 24 in. by 24 in. As brown or 
white for large and strong gardeners' baskets it is much 
sought after. If the shoots are left on the head for 
three-year-olds they make excellent sticks, for which 
there is an ever-growing demand, either as brown, 
white, or buff, and they command good prices. 

" Glib Skins," a name given by growers in the East 
Anglia fen country to a variety closely aUied to the 
" Brown Norfolk," is largely grown in Hunts and 
the Isle of Ely. It is regarded as an excellent wiUow 


for all kinds of market gardeners' baskets. A heavy 
cropper, and suited to yery damp warp lands with 
reasonable drainage. Shoots, 5 ft. to 7 ft. 6 in. long. 
It is often attacked by fly, which greatly reduces its 
market value. When the crop is sound it makes a 
good second-quality white, and yields a satisfactory 
return. Plant 22 in. by 22 in. If the shoots are left 
on the head for three years' growth they make excellent 

" New Kind " (light and dark), often called " Nor- 
folks," is one of the best of the larger-growing varieties 
of 5. triandra and a very heavy cropper. It is suitable 
for either white or brown, and as brown is mainly 
used for all work that requires a superior rod, i. e. 
fitching, handling, and tying. It always commands 
a good price and' a ready market in any district where 
brown goods are made. Well suited for growers who 
have no convenience for whitening. Shoots, 5 ft. 
to 8 ft. long. Suited to a damp, heavy loam or warp 
land. Plant 22 in. by 22 in. 

" Long Bud " is chiefly grown in Berkshire, where 
it enjoys a high reputation for quality. This rod when 
grown in Leicestershire appears to be identical with 
the rod known as "Dark New Kind." It is a very 
heavy cropper, and finds a profitable market. It is 
classed amongst the first quality of the large varieties 
of the triandra group. Shoots, 5 ft. to 8 ft. Suited 
to a heavy loam. Plant 22 in. by 22 in. 

"Champion Rod." — This name is applied to a 
variety largely grown in Somersetshire, where the soil 
seems to suit it well, in view of the great length 
which it attains, up to 9 ft. The middle and larger 
sizes make a moderate-class white. 

Salix amygdalina. — This is extremely difficult to 


differentiate botanically from S. triandra, and in fact 
by some authorities is considered to be a variety of 
S. triandra. So far as the working quality is concerned, 
the following three varieties are equally good, and 
belong 'to the fine-top class : " Brunette Noire," or 
Black; " Grisette Droite," or Straight; " Grisette 
Courbe," or Bent. These are of French origin, and 
were first brought to this country by myself in 1910. 
They are of excellent quality. The lengths attained 
are : Courbe, about 5 ft. ; Droite, 6 ft. ; and Noire, 7 ft. 
The Courbe variety requires a damp, rich alluvial loam 
or clay, whilst the Noire and Droite appear to do well 
on a cool loam. Plant, 18 in. by 18 in. 

" Trustworthy." — This is a tall and vigorous grower, 
and frequently attains a length of 7 ft. to 8 ft. It is 
grown in Suffolk and Berkshire, and is well adapted for 
market gardeners' requirements. The small of this 
variety is exceedingly soft and seldom whitened. \Mien 
grown under similar soil conditions at Loughborough it 
is not distinguishable from the rod so extensively grown 
in Somerset, known as the " Champion Rod." Plant 
22 in. by 22 in. 

" WTiissenders," a variety grown extensively on both 
light and heavy soils of the Trent VaUey. It is regarded 
as a good variety because of its productiveness and 
quality as buff, white or brown. Its rods are of the 
Ught class closely resembling those of " Early Dutch," 
but it differs from the latter in the greater length of 
shoot which it ultimately makes (5-6 ft.), and may 
be distinguished from other triandra varieties by the 
undulatory and unevenly serrated character of its 
leaf margins. Plant 20 in. by 20 in. 


Salix viminalis, or Common Osier 

This important species embraces many varieties, 
which differ very widely in their working qualities; 
in fact, many are not worth cultivation. Viminalis 
is a far more vigorous and hardy species than triandra, 
and is commonly known amongst basket-makers as a 
fuU-top or soft rod, carrying as it does a more uniform 
size to the top than either triandra or purpurea. It is 
distinguished by the strength and length of the shoots, 
which, in some instances, reach ii ft., and even longer, 
in one season. All varieties of this species are very 
accommodating in their habits, and generally do best 
in a dry season, providing the soil is fairly strong and 
cool ; in fact, they will grow in almost any soil, from 
drift to clay, and make a vigorous growth in a wet 
period, although the quahty of the wood is then 
deficient, owing to the rapidity of the growth. 

" Long Skin " (perhaps " Long Skein " would be the 
more correct term), when it is true to kind, is the closest- 
grained and the hardest-wooded of all the viminalis 
species, and makes the toughest skeins; but it gives 
rise to more contention with buyers than any other 
willow grown, since many growers who possess a good- 
quality osier persist in describing it as " Long Skin," 
in the hope of realising the fancy prices sometimes 
paid for the true sort. Although a vigorous grower, it 
seldom yields a smooth crop, being frequently damaged 
by the larvae of insects, which cause the top of the 
rod to throw out side-shoots. This defect, commonly 
known amongst basket-makers as rose-top, greatly 
reduces its value, and the variety is not grown exten- 
sively, owing to the uncertainty of the crop being 
smooth. Shoots, 4 ft. to 6 ft. 6 in. Good for white 


one- or two-year-olds, but scarcely equal to second- 
quality triandra for buff, unless grown on a strong 
clay soil. Plant 20 in. by 20 in. 

" Brown Merrin " is a more lengthy rod than " Long 
Skin," with the additional advantage that the fly does 
not attack it nearly so much; moreover, it generally 
grows smooth. Wlien grown on strong clay it makes a 
good second-quality white one-year-old, or first-quality 
two-year-old, or excellent brown. Shoots, 4 ft. to 7 ft., 
and a heavy cropper. Plant 20 in. by 20 in. 

" The French Osier," first imported from France by 
myself, is the best of the viminalis group gro%vn in 
that country. In the North of France it is greatly 
prized as a skein rod. Shoots, 4 ft. to 7 ft. 6 in. Re- 
quires a strong loam bordering on clay. Plant 20 in. 
by 20 in. It should be understood that the term 
" Osier " is appHed exclusively to the varieties of 
S. viminalis ; thus, " French," described on p. 35, and 
" French Osier " are quite distinct. 

" YeUow Osier," a fair cropper and invariably 
smooth, has been observed year after yeai to escape 
■ all attack by fly. The larger sizes make good second- 
class white, and the full crop excellent bro\Mi, when 
grown on strong upland or meadow clay soil. Shoots, 
4 ft. to 7 ft. Plant 20 in. by 20 in. 

" Black Top Osier." — A very good class osier on soil 
adapted to it. Does best in a good loam. Attains 
on an average about 7 ft. to 7 ft. 6 in. in one season, 
and makes an excellent skein rod. \\'ill make a third- 
rate white, but the smaU is too soft for peeling. Plant 
22 in. by 22 in. 

" Reed Osier," so called from its great length and 
straight growth, and the " Continental Osier," another 
variety similar in many respects, are the most vigorous 


known; they are very suitable for holding up river 
banks, for wild-bird coverts, or low, out-of-the-way 
places, and often reach a length of ii ft. and over in 
one season. After the heads are well established little 
attention is necessary, the foliage being dense enough 
to destroy the vegetable growth underneath. These 
two varieties provide the straightest and longest sticks 
grown, and when left for two or three years' growth 
command a brisk demand amongst all makers of transit 
hampers and basket furniture — which latter business 
has developed into a great industry in this country, 
and which in the past has been mainly supplied from 
Germany. When cut as one-year-olds they make 
good brown, and supply a larger proportion of staking 
than any other variety. Plant for one-year-olds, 
22 in. by 22 in. ; if for sticks, 26 in. by 26 in. 

" Meally Top Osier." — Another very vigorous-grow- 
ing variety, chiefly to be found in Somersetshire and 
some districts of the Eastern Counties. It is best suited 
to a heavy soil and frequently attains 10 to 11 ft. in one 
season. Cannot be recommended for white but makes 
excellent brown for market gardeners' work, and equally 
good sticks which can be whitened or buffed. Plant 
24 in. by 24 in. 

A strong loam or clay soil is necessary for all the 
varieties recommended for sticks because of the great 
length to which they attain; otherwise the action of 
the wind during the winter season would so loosen the 
roots in a lighter soil that there would be a great risk 
of them dying. Are unsuitable for peeling white as 
one-year-olds, but make excellent white or buff sticks. 

All the viminalis varieties are characterised by their 
heavy yields, and most by their adaptability to all 
soil conditions, and the low quality of the rods which 


they produce. Wlien one-year-old the rods are used 
as brown in the making of the coarsest kinds of basket 
ware. As two- and three-year-olds the rods, called 
sticks, are used as the main supporting parts of the 
heavier classes of hampers and basket furniture. 

Salix purpurea 

Salix purpurea, or the bitter willow, embraces many 
varieties, the best of which are the most slender for 
their length of all willows, and it also includes the two 
extremes in size. The smallest, known as " Dicks " or 
" Red Buds," is one of the toughest wiUows known, 
whilst others grow to 9 ft. ; they are easily recognis- 
able, since all are yellow on the inside of the bark, are 
very bitter to the taste, and show red eyes at the 
spring growth. Rabbits and cattle wiU seldom touch 
them unless under great stress of hvmger. 

The purpurea are unsuitable for white. Some of 
the varieties make excellent buff, to which reference 
will be made under their respective headings. 

" Kecks," or " Welch," is a long, slender, and very 
tough rod, and one seldom attacked by ground game, 
owing to the extremely bitter character of the bark. 
This variety invariably grows quite smoothly, thrives 
equally weU under dry or wet conditions, and has never 
been known to be blighted. Shoots, 3 ft. to 7 ft. 
Plant 18 in. by 18 in. Makes a good Ught-colour buff. 
It is used for binding purposes by nurserymen and 
market gardeners, but the latter now prefer one or 
other of the alba class for that purpose because of the 
more pleasing colour of the bark. 

" Welch." — This was a variety supphed to me 


by the U.S.A. Government in March 1910, at wliich 
time it certainly differed from the " Kecks " or 
" Welch," known here in the outward appearance and 
colour of its bark, but after being planted for three 
years the apparent difference — as in so many instances 
of the kind — entirely disappeared, and they were un- 
distinguishable from the English variety. A similar 
rod in Berkshire and Gloucestershire is called " Gold- 

" Dicky Meadows," or " Red Buds," supposed to 
have been first cultivated by a man of that name in 
Lancashire, is a variety which runs along the ground 
like strawberry runners; it is a very beautiful rod, 
wiry, and a heavy cropper, but very difficult to kpep 
clean, since the weeders must work unshod and with 
their feet clothed in some soft fabric in order to avoid 
bruising the shoots. Unsuitable for white, but makes 
very choice buff, and is now largely used in the making 
of tea and luncheon baskets; for all classes of fine 
buff goods it has no equal. Shoots 18 in. to 4 ft. 6 in. 
Will do equally well on drift or heavy soil, and is not 
affected by dry or wet seasons — a feature pecuhar to 
all varieties of purpurea. Plant 16 in. by 16 in. This 
variety this year (1918) is making most extraordinary 
prices, and is selling as green at £52 per ton. Many 
instances are on record of lots being sold to the users 
when buffed and graded into their five sizes at from 
£90 to £150 per ton. 

" Light Dicks " is another variety in all respects like 
the above, except that the bark is of a very light colour, 
and comes into flower somewhat ear her than the ' ' Red 
Bud." It frequently attains a somewhat larger growth 
than the " Dicky Meadows." Shoots, 18 in. to 5 ft. 
Heavy hazel soil. Plant 16 in. by 16 in. 


" Dark Dicks," another of the same variety, grows 
longer than either of the above and upright; it is 
used for staking and also for skeins. Shoots, 2 ft. to 
6 ft. This variety does best in a very hot season, and 
is capable of yielding a second-quaUty white. Soil 
conditions as for " Red Buds." Plant 16 in. by 16 in. 

" PjT-amidalis " is a taU, slender rod, sent to me 
from Germany as one of their best, and classed by 
a German botanist as purpurea — a doubtful classifi- 
cation, since it makes a good-colour white, which no 
English purpurea will do. Shoots, 5 ft. to 8 ft. Plant 
20 in. by 20 in. 

" Brittany Green," a beautifully slender rod of 
great length for its substance, was brought by me 
from France and planted at Loughborough in the 
spring of 191 1, on a rather dry, rich loam, or marl soil, 
18 in. by 18 in. In spite of the severe drought of 191 1, 
it wholly escaped the blight, from which so many 
suffered, and at the end of July had made a satisfactory 
and healthy growth. In France it is regarded as a 
good rod. Shoots, 3 ft. 6 in. to 6 ft. 6 in. 

Salix pentandra 

The three foUo\ving sorts, viz, " Lumley," " Patent 
Lumley," and " American Green," were sent to me 
by the U.S.A. Forestry Department in March 1910, 
and are stated to be the best suited to trans- 
atlantic chmatic conditions. They gave in 191 1 a 
growth of 4 ft. to 6 ft. under a very dry and trying 
season, and escaped the green fly, with which the 
adjoining varieties were badly troubled, owing to 
drought. They are good croppers but of third-rate 
quality when peeled white. 


Salix alba 

" Africans." — This variety as grown in England is 
the better of two kinds largely imported. It does not 
make the same long growth as in its native country. 
A rich alluvial clay is suitable. Shoots, 4 ft. to 7 ft., 
3 ft. 6 in. to 10 ft. in its native climate. A very suitable 
and excellent willow for warm, humid places.* Plant 
20 in. by 20 in. 

Salix alba var. vitellina. — The variety known as 
" Golden Willow " is one of the toughest willows grown 
if used with the bark on in a green state. It is chiefly 
sold for tie-rods to market gardeners, nurserymen 
and celery growers, who get their principal supplies 
from the Reading district and Suffolk. Strong, damp, 
rich soil is required. Shoots, 3 ft. to 6 ft. 6 in. If 
peeled, the colour is dirty and the rods poor in 
quality, and when dried for brown the bark goes 
black in patches, making consequently but a second- 
rate price in this condition. Plant 20 in. by 20 in. 

Salix alba var. cardinalis. — The " Belgian Red 
Willow " is the best working- quality willow that 
Belgium produces, but is far inferior to the triandra 
varieties of Great Britain ; it is a moderate cropper, 
but the shoots rarely exceed 5 ft. 6 in., and they do 
not make a good colour as white; it finds a ready 
market with gardeners and nurserymen as green for 
tie-rods, and is well suited for that purpose. Its great 
toughness lies in the bark. Plant 18 in. by 18 in. on a 
damp loam soil. 

Salix hippophaifolia {for sewage farm purposes) 

Botanically this willow resembles both 5. triandra 
and S. viminalis and is therefore classed by botanists 



as a hybrid. It is characterised by a green base and 
a broNvn top. It is a vigorous growing wiUow, and 
a very heavy cropper, frequently cutting more than 
eight tons to the acre. The willow requires a rich 
soil, and is, therefore, adapted to the method of 
cultivation practised on sewage farms. Furthermore, 
it produces dense foUage which checks the growth 
of weeds. Its wood is exceedingly hard, and the 
quahty does not appear to deteriorate when grown 
imder sewage farm conditions. Of all the \sillows tried 
on sewage farms, this alone has proved satisfactory, 
producing a rod equal in quality to those produced 
imder ordinary conditions. Whilst growing, the largest 
rods have a tendency to throw out side shoots, but as 
these are usually of a tender character, they fall away 
during the winter season or at peeling time. For 
all purposes of work where a fuU top is desirable it is 
probably unequalled, and it is equally good for white, 
buff or browTi. The shoots are from 4 ft. to 7 ft. long. 
It should be planted 20 in. by 20 in. 

Salix wigstoniensis 

This rod was developed from 5. hippophaifolia, but 
differs in the colour of the bark, being of a red, coppery- 
brown colour. Very little grown, but I have found 
it an extremely useful rod, making excellent white 
or buff. Grows 4 ft. to 7 ft. Requires a rich loam. 
Plant 20 in. by 20 in. 

" Americana " was first introduced here by my- 
self from SUesia, where it is known as " Americana " 
from the fact that it has been extensively exported 
from Germany to America. It is a long supple 


willow apparently with a strain of purpurea in it, 
from the fact that in the spring-time it shows red 
eyes — a characteristic of the purpurea species. Of 
moderate working quality, has a good marketable 
appearance, and may be regarded as a splendid 
willow for brown because it invariably grows smooth 
and singularly free from insect attacks. It makes a 
growth of about 7 ft. on an average loam, and is a 
good cropper. Plant 20 in. by 20 in. 

Salix daphnoides 

There appears to be only one willow of this class 
grown commercially, and because of its violet bloom 
it is known to the trade as " Violets." The number of 
shoots to each plant is few, but being a vigorous grower 
it frequently produces shoots 8 ft. to 10 ft. long in one 
season. Such shoots if left uncut until the second 
year should produce valuable sticks. This willow will 
do with a poor, strong class of soil. Plant 22 in. 
by 22 in. 

Unclassified Rods 

In addition to the above there are other varieties, 
known as " Gelsters," " Russets," " Harrisons," " Red 
Root," all of which thrive without much care if 
conditions are suitable to their requirements. 

" Harrisons " and " Red Root " possess character- 
istics common to both S. viminalis and 5. purpurea, 
and may be regarded as hybrids of these. The 
question of hybridation in willows touches a very 


controversial point in classification, and nothing really 
definite has been decided. 

In addition to those enumerated, which are the 
best commercial varieties, there are numerous others 
which only command a very low price and are not 
worth the attention of any intending grower to 
plant, and for that reason are not referred to. 

Note. — The prices specified in this chapter are 
already rendered out of date as these pages are 
passing through the press. Dicky Meadows (p. 46) 
cannot now (November 1918) be bought under £200 
the ton as buff. 

preparation and marketing 

Preparation of the Rods 

In cases where the grower has no facilities for prepar- 
ing the willows they are marketed direct from the field 
as " green." The rods in this condition are heavy, 
and the freight charges for transit are therefore high. 
Furthermore, the buyer has to sort out, grade, and 
prepare the willows in many ways before they can 
be used by the average basket -maker. Some of the 
poorer grown and those of inferior quality are at times 
used green for making the very cheapest-grade baskets 
used by seedsmen, yeast merchants, etc., and as such 
baskets are usually non-returnable, the price of green 
for this class of basket work is very low. To secure 
the best prices it is advisable to plant only the best 
varieties, and to prepare for buff or white. 

White Rods 

White rods are prepared in the spring after the flow 
of sap has become active. Cell activity commences in 
the region of the apices of the shoots and travels 
downwards. Consequently the upper portions of a 
rod may be " peelable," while the butt end has the 
skin still firmly attached to the wood. A backward 



spring suddenly followed by a few warm days causes 
rapid sap-flow, which is closely followed by develop- 
ment of new wood. Under such conditions satis- 
factory peeling may not be possible for longer than 
three or four days for the early varieties. Under 
opposite conditions the peeling period may last fourteen 
days when the crop consists of early and late varieties. 
The period during which the process of whitening 
rods is possible, can be prolonged by growing several 
varieties which attain in succession the best peeling 
condition, as, for instance, Champion Rod, Black Maul, 
New Kind and French. 

Preparation for Whitening 

The several methods of pfeparation for whitening 
are known as cutting from the head, couching, pieing, 
and pitting. All are necessary in the case of growers 
on a large scale, whose object it is to start peehng at 
the earliest possible moment and prolong it as late as 
they can. 

Cutting from the Head. — After the greater part of 
the crop has been cut for buff, or put into the pit or 
the pie for whitening, the first process is known as 
cutting from the head. The first "\\illows to peel will 
be those cut from the heads when bursting into leaf. 
The time between cutting the early and late varieties 
is frequently as much as from seven to ten days. 
The greatest care must be exercised in cutting in 
order not to allow willows to stand on the head until a 
new growth begins to form, as this produces a second 
skin, which shows itself when peeled in fine strips or 
shreds on the top of the old wood and presents a very 


ragged appearance when worked up. Such " double- 
skinned " rods are greatly depreciated in value and 
useless for good work; moreover, an exhaustion or 
bleeding of the head results. The correct period for 
commencing to cut from the head for white peeling 
cannot be determined by the calendar. It has been 
known to vary from March lo to May lo. The proper 
time is when the leaf begins to show or when the 
catkins appear, for the sap has then begun to flow. 
On many varieties the catkins appear before the leaf. 


A limited number of the spring-cut bundles are 
placed in heaps in definite order on the ground. 
Usually a layer of bundles is placed with the butt ends 
all one way, and a similar layer is placed on the top 
with the butts at about the centre of the bundle 
forming the bottom layer. This is repeated until the 
heaps are about six bundles deep. The object is to 
keep the tops from heating, and to permit the flow of 
the sap. It will be found a good plan to throw a 
Uberal quantity of water over the whole to aid the 
sweating and prevent heating ; then to cover the heap 
lightly with old peelings, which keep the willows warm 
and exclude wind and sun. By the time the material 
cut and peeled from the head is finished the contents 
of these stacks should be quite ready for peeling 
(see illustration, Fig. 4). 


If they have plenty of spare ground, some growers 
instead of couching prefer to put one row of bimdles 

4 —Rods in the Couch. 

To face page 54. 


on the ground and then place the next row from 3 ft. 
to 4 ft. behind, so that the tops of the back bundles 
wrap well over the butt ends of the row in front — 
continuing this until all are in the pie. The willows 
are then Ughtly covered over with old peehngs, and 
watered once or twice a week, according to whether 
the season is wet or dry. In this manner they wiU 
keep in a peeling condition for weeks. The small 
rods in the bundles must not be allowed to heat, and 
in order to avoid this, it is as weU to turn the bundles 
over if they are likely to he for more than two or three 
weeks. Couching and pieing are only attempted by 
a few growers, the majority rely on pitting, which is 
customary in almost every wiUow centre. 


In pitting, the bundles are placed in an upright 
position in a dyke in from 5 in. to 8 in. of water. The 
rods should not be tied too tightly and aU butts should 
stand level to ensure that they are in the water ; 
light and air should be allowed to penetrate freely. 
It will be found a good plan to space the bundles into 
" bays," so that each bay will contain 18 to 24 bundles 
according to the size of the bundle. If the bundles do 
not exceed 33 in. round, 24 may be placed in each 
bay; but if they are 36 in. to 38 in., 18 bundles will 
be found quite sufficient. 

In pitting it is essential that the water should not be 
too hard or too cold, and that fresh water should always 
be passing through. If the water is stagnant, the rods 
will make a satisfactory growth for a short time and 
then remain in about the same state for a week or ten 
days. Afterwards they will gradually turn sickly and 


deteriorate, or frequently get covered with mealy bug 
or other insect life. When a constant supply of fresh 
water has been maintained, rods have been known to 
stand in the pit from March, which is the usual time 
to begin pitting, to the end of July. Where the amount 
of available labour is limited, or the season proves to 
be wet and unsuitable for outdoor peeling, pitting has 
a great advantage and there is no fear of a double 
skin being produced. Even with a good sound bottom 
for the dyke, it is a wise plan to rinse the dirt from the 
butt ends of the willows in clean water and allow them 
to dry somewhat before peeling is commenced. 

Peeling for White 

The rods are peeled by the hand assisted by " fixed 
breaks," and women and children are employed for 
the purpose. Although much time and money have 
been expended on constructing machines to do the 
peeling, very little improvement has been made in 
the process used fifty years ago. The peeler stands by 
his break, which is fixed to a table or post, with a 
bundle of green rods at his side, the butt ends all being 
near the break. The rods are taken separately, the 
butt end drawn through the break, splitting the. skin ; 
the rod is reversed and again pulled through the break. 
The skin is removed and the rod comes away clean and 

The process is the same in every district, though the 
actual breaks used differ in shape and form. 

Breaks. — A break in its simplest form consists of 
two metal blades pressed together by the hand whilst 
the rod is being drawn through. The appliance 

Figs. 5 am 

-Machines and Brakes for Peeling Willow Rods. 

To face page 56. 


marked i860 in Fig. 5 shows a simple break of this 
kind which has been in existence for sixty years and 
is still used in some parts of England. If used care- 
fully the work is done weU, though slowly, but often the 
peeler exerts too much force and splits the rod. In 
the more modern type the principle used is much the 
same as in the break described above, but the blades 
are kept together by a spring so that the operator 
has both hands free to pull the rod. It possesses 
the further advantage of exerting a constant, pressure 
which does not damage the rods. E and F, Fig. 6, 
represent two breaks of this type, modification of 
which are generally found most useful by willow 
peelers. Several more complicated breaks, such as 
represented by A, B and C, have been invented and 
are usually efficient, but on account of their cost have 
not yet come into general use. 

Drying White Rods. — The freshly peeled rods are 
dried in the open air by resting them against stretched 
wire. The wire should certainly be galvanised to 
prevent its rusting during wet periods. Such rust 
would stain white rods. I find it better to spread 
the rods on to a couple of wooden rails fixed 2 ft. 
from the groimd. The vdnd can then exert a drying 
influence without the fear of staining. The first con- 
sideration is a good colour, and in order to attain 
this, white rods ought not to remain out of doors 
more than tsventy-four hours. 

In suitable weather all material peeled before noon 
shoyjd be warehoused the same night, and this can 
only be made possible by thinly spreading it on a 
couple of rails fixed 2 ft. from the ground so that the 
wind can play underneath as weU as on to the top. 
As good colour is of so much importance, the workers 


should be discouraged from handling rods with dirty 
hands. The peelers must be taught to lay the rods 
between pegs, according to their various sizes — usually 
three, but sometimes four, according to the class of the 
rods. When dry, the rods are graded, bundled, and 
stored in a dry house. 

The cost to the grower in Somerset who whitens 
his own crop may be estimated according to the prices 
current in July 1916, at £18 per ton, made up as 
follows : — 

Three tons of one-year-old green, at £4 los. a ton, wiU 
produce one ton of white at a cost for labour of £4 los., 
i. e. £3 15s. for peeling and 15s. for t}ing and other 
incidental expenses. In the past, in the Midlands, 
white peeUng was paid for at a daily wage of is. 3^. 
to 2s. 6^., according to the experience of the workers. 
The tendency now is to adopt the more businesslike 
method of paying by weight, which ensures the 
peelers a suitable reward for their labour. In Leicester- 
shire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire peeHng is 
usually done by weight. The peelers sort their one- 
year-old rods into two classes, known as hullings and 
rods, the price being yd. per stone for the rods, equiva- 
lent to £4 6s. M. per ton, whilst the hullings cost 
IS. -^d. per stone or £10 per ton (this was in 1917). 
As the hullings represent about one-third of the rods, 
this works out at approximately £5 15s. per ton, to 
which must be added the labour associated with tying 
and drying. At one of the principal peeling yards in 
the Midlands, where the peeling staff exceeds a hundred, 
objection was taken to any form of piece-work rates, 
and 20S. a week of 44 hours was paid to the women 
in the spring of 1918, resulting in the cost exceeding 
that of any previous year. 



In the ]Midlands I have utilised my steam instal- 
lation for buffing in a novel manner as follows for 
forcing the rods to grow in the winter months. A 
pit, 9 in. deep by 5 yds. wide and 10 yds. long, was 
built of concrete and bricks. The width was di\'ided 
into three sections, each of the two outer being 2 yds. 
wide, whilst the centre, of i yd. wide, provided 
a path. The two outer bays were supplied with a 
steam-heated pipe, which gave the water a tempera- 
ture of from 55'' to 65^ Fahr. The water was changed 
twice a week to ensure a constant supply of fresh 
water. After the rods had been standing in the water 
for a Uttle over a fortnight, the sap flowed and the rods 
peeled satisfactory. As the end of each section became 
empty it was filled up again with fresh material. By 
using this process, many tons of rods were peeled 
three months before they would be ready for peeling 
under natural conditions. At a time when white 
is realising fancy prices, this novel method seems 
attractive. As there is a strong probability that very 
high prices wiU be realised for some years to come, 
this inexpensive method of peeling out of the natural 
season is worthy of consideration. 


This is the earliest operation that can be undertaken 
when the willows have fully grown, and may be com- 
menced at any period when the foliage has fallen. 
Whilst there is no calendar period to indicate this, 
the wood will usually be sufficiently ripe by the early 
part of November. Buff rods are produced by boiling 
in their skins freshly cut rods and those which have 


been left to dry, and then peeling them. In the case of 
boiling dried rods, it is most important that these shall 
.not be heated in any way, as in that case blotches will 
be left upon the wood, the labour involved in stripping 
will be considerably increased, and the value of the 
rod will be greatly depreciated when peeled. All the 
heated places instead of coming out an even buff will 
show light -coloured patches. 

The boiling for buffing is done in specially constructed 
long tanks for some hours. The exact time varies 
according to the variety of willows under preparation 
and the class of soil in which it was grown. Thus in 
the Midlands the average time of boiling is about five 
hours, but in Somerset a much longer time is necessary 
if a good buff colour is desired. By boiling, the tannin 
matter present in the bark is hberated and acts as a 
dye on the underlying wood, giving it that pleasing 
colour so characteristic of buff rods. 

Varieties suitable for Buffing 

In order to meet the large demand usually experi- 
enced in autumn for buff rods, it is essential that growers 
should plant several varieties, ranging from French to 
Mauls or Mottled Spaniards. Stacks of green willows 
soon dry when exposed to the spring winds, and the 
grower should, if possible, boil the varieties with the 
thinnest skins first, such as Spaniards. Black Maul 
and New Kind, having thicker skins, will remain green 
up to the end of March or April, and S. hippophaifolia 
will buff well up to the middle of May. These rods 
have the thickest skins, and if need be can be peeled 
when the bark has dried by placing them in cold water 
at the commencement of the boiling. 


The varieties of 5. vimitialis, with the exception 
of Long Skins, do not make good buff. Long Skins 
may be left until late in the season, since by 
reason of their good quality the rods leave the 
boiling-tank with sufficient colour to be stacked as 
soon as dry. 

Owing to the low percentage of tanning properties, 
the purpurea varieties are seldom used for buff, and the 
only sorts in large demand are Light, Dark, and Old 
Dicks and Kecks. The Light and Old Dicks are eagerly 
sought after for all articles requiring a small, long, and 
tough taper rod. The Dark Dicks, being of a larger 
growth, generally provide stakes or skeins, but, in the 
event of their not growing large enough, the Kecks are 
the only other variety suitable to supplement them 
giving the same shade of colour. 

Each of these sorts is best left until the early spring, 
when the sun begins to exert its influence and materially 
assists in developing the desired light-golden colour. 
In the absence of sun it is often necessary to expose 
these willows on the grass for from two to three weeks, 
turning them over during that period several times in 
order to get the required colour and to prevent mildew 
or black spots appearing, for both those defects materi- 
ally reduce the market value. If the season is a dry 
one the rods should be sprinkled with a fine spray of 
water; sun and air will then produce the necessary 
colour. It is most desirable that an equal colour be 
obtained all through the output, and since the sun 
plays such an important part in producing this, the 
exposure need not be so long during the later weeks 
of the peeling as in the earlier part of the season when 
there is less sun and light . 

The whole of these varieties should be boiled in the 


green state, and peeled by the fingers, so as to prevent 
splitting, which would destroy their value. 

Time of Cutting. — Cutting the crop for buffing can be 
started as soon as half the leaf has fallen, i. e. usually 
about the third week in October. The remainder may 
be cut after the whole leaf has fallen, and may be 
stacked in the open without harm to the rods. 

Boiling. — The size of the boihng tanks will vary 
according to the kind of willow and to the number of 
peelers employed. Four peelers on each side are as 
many as can work on average rods to advantage. The 
eight peelers should empty in one day a tank 12 ft. by 
4 ft. 6 in. by 4 ft. 9 in. deep inside, holding about 
30 cwt. of ordinary green one-year-olds, which, when 
peeled and dried, give 10 to 11 cwt. of buff. This size 
tank will also be found useful for sticks. 

In the case of Dicks or any similar small-growing 
varieties, a tank 7 ft. long by 2 ft. wide and 2 ft. 
deep (inside measurements) is large enough. In the 
north-west of England, where the Dicks are largely 
grown, wooden tanks, of the dimensions above, having 
a sheet of iron on the underside of the tank, are used. 
The water is heated by a fire underneath, with a single 
flue running up a cheaply constructed chimney at the 

For the grower of ordinary willows the following 
arrangement will be suitable : — Having decided on the 
size of the tank, the flue should be run underneath the 
centre for the full length of the tank, raised or bridged 
two-thirds of the way along the bottom to save fuel and 
give greater heat, turned at the end so as to pass along 
the side and across the front above the furnace door 
and then along the opposite side and up the chimney. 
The tanks are made of compressed steel sheets bolted 



together and fitted up with brickwork in such a 
manner as to leave the flues as mentioned. By this 
arrangement the maximum amount of heat wiU be 
given to the tank before the smoke ascends the chinmey. 

The tank should have an inside flange at the top in 
addition to an outside one, in order to keep the wooden 
sinkers which hold the rods under the water during the 
process of boihng, in their places. 

For continuous use in the Midlands, it is found 
ad\dsable to work so that all the rods in the tank on 
any day can be peeled by four o'clock in the afternoon, 
which is as late as the peelers can see in the winter-time ; 
the fire should then be stoked and the water brought to 
the boil. This done, the tank should be closely packed 
with willows, some of the peeUngs placed on the top 
to keep in the heat, and the wooden sinkers fixed across 
under the flange to keep all the bundles immersed. 
After the willows have been boiled for about five hours, 
the fire should be banked up and the tank left until the 
following morning. The water should then be heated 
to warm the rods ready for the peelers. In Somerset 
the bundles of willows are placed into boiling water in 
the tanks at twelve (noon), and the water kept boihng 
imtil the evening. The fire is then banked up and 
left imtil the following morning, when the wiUows 
are removed and peeled. The water is brought to the 
boil and the tank refilled with willows at twelve (noon). 
The tanks are thus kept in continuous use for a fort- 
night, when the fire is withdrawn, and the flues cleaned. 
The tanks are emptied of water, cleaned of refuse, 
and refilled with fresh water. 

The simple method described above will be found 
equally good in the case of larger plants. In one case, 
a range of four large tanks and one small one was 


heated by means of a 12 h.p. Cornish boiler, which 
not only provided the steam for boiling the water in 
each tank, but also pumped the cold water from a well 
for filling both the boiler and tanks and furnished the 
heat required for drying the buff. 

For heating by steam, the coils of copper piping that 
lie along the bottom of the tank should be hinged, so 
as to allow them to be raised up either from the end or 
side for the purpose of removing the sediment which 
accumulates between the pipes and on the bottom of 
the tank. Attention to these details will be rewarded 
by the brighter colour of the buff. 

Of the five tanks referred to above, only two had 
flues fixed underneath, and either or both of these 
could be fired at a less cost than putting steam on. 
The object of placing flues underneath is to afford 
another means of heating in the event of the steam 
boiler going wrong. 

It is preferable to complete the bufhng before the bark 
dries, but if this is not possible, the rods may be buffed 
by putting the rods in cold water when the bark has set 
and then by boiling them as indicated above. 

The average price for first-quality growth of one- 
year-old green in the winter of 1915-16 was £5 per ton. 
Three tons of green when boiled give one ton of buff, 
and, taking the cost of the coal and labour, including 
a foreman, to be about £6 los. per ton, the net cost 
of producing a ton of buff will be £21 los. The sale 
price generally shows a good profit. 

Tanks for Boiling. — In addition to the two styles 
described under the heading " BoiUng," there are less 
expensive methods of meeting these requirements. The 
sizes are entirely dependent upon the area and quantity 
of material the grower intends to buff annually. A 


simple and effective method for the small producer will 
be found to answer, by placing out of doors a wooden 
tank about 7 ft. by 21 in. wide and 24 in. deep, made 
from sound wood 2 in. thick. This should be fitted 
with a sheet-iron plate underneath the bottom ; erected 
on bricks and a flue fixed as previously described, 
straight under the centre of the bottom but bridged 
two-thirds along, and a cast-iron chimney supported 
as circumstances uill present themselves to the person, 
according to the location in which he is going to place 
it. Such a boiling-tank may be erected all complete at 
the present time (1918), including an inexpensive cover, 
under £30. It of course must be imderstood that if 
tlj^s boiler is out of doors an indoor place must be 
provided for the women to peel the material. A further 
inexpensive method where the boihng faciUties are of a 
more extensive character, is to purchase half of an 
ordinary steam boiler cut longitudinally, bricked in 
and flued as in either of the cases mentioned under the 
heading " Boiling," with soot-cleaning doors fixed on 
each side, so that a constant clear draught can always be 
assured. But buffing in the most satisfactory way can 
only be done by fixing the boiler in a building which is 
large enough for the peelers to stand on each side and 
peel the rods directly from the hot water. To attempt 
to peel rods when in a cold condition adds greatly to 
the labour and spUts the rods in consequence of the 
peehng being performed with breaks. Further, it fails 
to give that good buff colour which is so essential for 
high-class productions. 


Peeling Buff 

The boiling process not only gives the rods a pleasing 
colour, but also prepares the skin for peeling, which is 
usually done by women or boys. The skin may be 
removed by the hand alone or with the help of breaks. 

(a) By the hand alone. — The peelers stand on either 
side of the tank and strip the rods whilst they are still 
hot. They commence by gently forcing the skin back 
from the butt end for an inch or more, so that it forms 
a kind of rosette around the rod. The rod is then 
reversed, the ^n pressed by the fingers and thumb, and 
the rod pulled by the butt end with the other hand. 
The skin is left in the one hand, and the rod comes 
away clear, free from all bark, and quite unbruised in 
any way. This process of peeling certainly leaves the 
rods in an excellent condition. 

(b) By the aid of breaks. — (i) Some growers of exclu- 
sively small material use a forked hand-break, made 
either of a hard wood or iron, something like a tuning 
fork. The peeler, holding about six rods in her hand, 
uses the break to release the bark at the butt ends and 
to force it back as before to form rosettes around the 
rods. The rosettes of skin are then gripped with the 
left hand and the rods drawn through with the other 
hand. This process entirely strips the rods of their 
skin, and several are drawn at a time. 

(2) When the rods have been graded before boiling, so 
that they are of even size, a more expeditious method 
may be employed. Two pieces of wood, the bottom 
fixed, and the top hinged at the end of the bottom one 
and worked by a spring suspended from above, are used 
to form a break. Both pieces of wood are fitted with a 
strip of india-rubber about 15 in. long by | in. square. 


The work is difficult and can only be weU done by two 
strong workers, one of whom takes from eight to twelve 
rods in his left hand and with his right rubs the butt 
ends together until he forces the peel for 8 in. back into 
a rosette or knot ; these peeled butt ends are laid inside 
the wooden jaws, the top wood is brought down and 
pressed on to the rods by means of the foot on a cord. 
The second man grips the butt ends of the rod and pulls 
them through the break. 

The skins are left behind and fall to the ground. The 
india-rubber has a soft action on the rods and there is no 
splitting or bruising. 

This system gives the quickest results, but saves 
little in cost owing to the high wages demanded by the 
men who do this laborious work. 

(3) In the West of England the rods are stripped by 
the use of the fixed breaks in the same way as for 
" white " rod. The practice is less suited to boiled rods, 
as they get bruised and split, and their value is greatly 

The rate paid for peeling buff by hand in 1918 was 
usually 6d. to S^d. per bimdle, according to the size of 
the crop, in a green state. ^ The " bundle " is 36 in. 
in girth, as measured with a strap about a foot 
from the butt end as the rods he on the rack behind 
the peelers. 

The peeled rods are afterwards drafted into different 
lengths, any rough or badly grov^Ti rods being thrown 
out in preparing high-class material. In this work a 
wooden standard is used, on which are marked the 
different lengths : it is fixed on the inside of a tub 
sunk two- thirds into the ground. The first drafts, 
being the longest, are called No. i, and vary from 
* If the rods are bufied dry, the price is increased. 


6 ft. 6 in. down to about 5 ft. 6 in. ; then follow No. 2, 
5 ft. 6 in. to 4 ft. 6 in. ; No. 3, 4 ft. 6 in. to 3 ft. 6 in. ; 
No. 4, 3 ft. 6 in. to 3 ft. ; and if any smaller are left 
(Nos. 5 and 6) they are usually put together. 

Drying for Buff 

After the skins have been stripped off, the rods are 
placed on end in the open air, resting against a support 
of galvanised wire fencing or rails so as to dry out 
the bulk of the water through exposure to the sun and 
air (Fig. 7). If ordinary wire is used it soon becomes 
rusty. This is calculated to leave an impression on 
the rod, which for high-class material must be avoided. 
As the drying continues, colouring develops. The 
depth of colour produced varies with the variety of 
willow used, the length of time of boiling, the length 
of time of exposure and the light and sun conditions. 
All the rods should, therefore, be exposed so as to get 
a uniform shade of colour. This drying process needs 
skill and experience to produce good results, and the 
process should be under the supervision of a skilled 
worker. When the correct colour shade of buff has 
been obtained, the rods are taken into the drjdng-rooms 
and laid on wooden racks, supported on rests from the 
floor to the ceiling. This room should be fitted with a 
drying-fan, as, without the aid of artificial drying, it 
is almost impossible to buff on an extensive scale in 
winter -time. Buffed willows are peculiarly subject to 
mildew, and, if stacked away in a damp condition, will 
soon turn mouldy and become spotted. 

Even when the rods are dried by heat, the bundling 
of buff should not be hurried during the winter months, 
since the atmosphere has a powerful effect on buff 

Fig. 7. — White Rods out to Dry. 

Fig, 8.— Grading Willows into Different Lengths. 

To face page 69. 


rods, and, if bunched tightly for export, they may be 
greatly damaged during a journey of any considerable 

Grading and Tying info Bundles 

Grading. — Good rods always find a ready market, and 
the difficulty of selling increases with the poorness in 
quality. It frequently suits a grower to clear all his 
stock annually, so as to save labour, to avoid storing and 
waste, and to make room for the next crop. In such 
cases grading is purposely not practised. In former 
years grading was, perhaps, not so necessary, as the 
basket-maker made many kinds of goods and could thus 
use up all kinds of rods. The industry has, however, 
now become so speciaUsed that a maker can find little or 
no use for rods which are unsuitable for making his one 
special class of goods. The puce offered for ungraded 
rods and mixed wiUows is low, because of the expense of 
sorting out the material required, the packing, and the 
necessity for reselling those rods which are unsuitable. 
In view of the higher price obtainable, the grower would 
be well advised to grade his rods. Grading according 
to length is not sufficient. Quality and evenness in 
colour must also be taken into account (Fig. 8). 

Tying. — The bundles should also be neatly tied. If 
the rods are placed upright in the bundles and secured 
with two, or, in the case of long rods, three, bands tied 
neatly, the bundles present a pleasing appearance and 
realise better prices. 

It is known that the rods imported from Belgium 
and Germany were far inferior in quality to the home- 
grown rods, but found a readier hiarket because they 
were graded in a satisfactory manner, neatly bundled 
and tied. On the other hand, the rods from France, 


though far superior to these in quality, caused much 
dissatisfaction amongst merchants because of the care- 
less grading as to quality, several varieties frequently 
being found in one bundle. * 

Brown, and How to Preserve it. 

The rods which have been neither " buffed " nor 
" whitened " are known as brown — being sold with their 
skins on. This class of material under normal con- 
ditions of labour generally consists of rods of inferior 
growth or quality, and, consequently, the price is low. 

If the whole crop is to be sold as brown, cutting may 
be done after the rods have ripened, wliich is soon after 
all the foliage has fallen. Any time after this, and 
before the sap begins to flow, would be a suitable time. 
The cut willows are tied into bundles and spread out 
in heaps of six bundles deep in long rows, with the butt 
ends pointing all towards the south, where under the 
drying action of the wind and sun the rods become cured 
and turn brown. To prevent the willows heating in the 
heaps, it may be necessary to turn the bundles two or 
three times. When dry, the rods must be tied into 
bundles securely, taking care that the loop end of the 
band is strong, because it is the loop that represents 
the strength of the band; the bundles should be 
shaken level at the butt end and tied firmly with at 
least two bands. If the crop is free from weeds the 
bundles, without curing, may be stacked in the open 
much in the same manner as a farmer stacks his hay. 
The roof after being built up as an ordinary haystack, 
should be thatched with the roughest bundles of the 
crop. Start by placing a row of bundles side by side, 
sufficiently up from the eaves so that the tips will 


Fig. 9.— Machine for Tying Willow Rods for> Export. 

It enables the bundles to be tied of equal size at each end, and also in the middle. 

a shows the style of tying adapted for export, with all tops protected. 

Fig. 10. — Stkkl Peg and Chain for Tightening the Bundle 


To jaxe page 72. 


overhang the sides about 2 ft. Then place the next 
row higher up the top, the butts being in a line \\ith 
the ridges and the tips overlapping the butts of the 
first series. Repeat this on the opposite side with 
longer stuff, so that the top series of bundles have an 
overlap of about 18 in. over the butts on the other side 
which come level with the ridge. Secure these bundles 
with ordinary thatch pegs into the body of the 
stack. In this condition the willows will keep sound 
and saleable for several years, so that a grower may 
await the best market. Large quantities of brown are 
accmuulated by some growers, much ultimately being 
wasted, whilst others manage to dispose of all their 
" brown " each year. 

It may be gathered, therefore, that only rods of the 
same variety and of approximately the same size and 
length should be included in the bundles. The rods 
should stand upright in the bundles and be secured 
by willow bands tied in a careful manner. 

The fact that the size of the bundle varies with each 
district makes trading difficult, and selling by weight is 
now becoming more popular and should be adopted by 
all. Leicestershire now has no standard size or weight 
of bundles, but sells exclusively by the hundredweight, 
including the bands. Nottinghamshire growers tie in 
" half -bunches," weighing 35 lb. of rods. A pound 
extra is allow^ed per half -bunch for the two bands, which 
are breeched. All growers in that county, as w^eU as in 
the adjoining parts of Lincolnshire, quote at the present 
time a price per bunch of five stone of 14 lb. Those 
districts prepare and sort only into two sizes, caUed 
hullings and rods. 

In Huntingdonshire and Cambridge they are sorted 
into sizes known as Small, Threepenny, Middleboro', 


and Great. These are tied by the aid of a special 
machine in bolts of 40 in, in girth, measured 8 in. for 
the smaller sizes, 10 in. for the Threepenny and Middle- 
boro', and 12 in. for the Great, up the bolt from the 
butt. Rods are afterwards " pricked in " round the 
band so as to fill up every crevice. The grower quotes 
his price per load of 80 bolts, the average weight of a 
load being about one and a half tons (see Figs. 9-12). 

The tying machine (Fig. 9 (2)) was made especially 
for export tying, and is the only one known in this 
country. It enables a bundle to be tied of equal size at 
each end and also in the middle. This was found to 
be necessary because shippers would only carry rods by 
the measurement ton. The bundle (Fig. 9 (2a)) shows 
the style of tying adapted for export. It protects all the 
tops from injury. The steel peg and chain (Fig. 10) will 
be found a very efficient tool for tightening the bundle 
before putting on the willow band. Fig. 11 is a very 
simple and efficient machine suitable for growers who 
are not expert tiers. 

Somerset growers tie up in bundles of 38 in. at 3 in. 
above the butts, and here again (with few exceptions) 
always quote a price per bolt. Berkshire growers, who 
usually produce a good class of large stuff, grade their 
willows into Tack, Short Small, Long Small, Three- 
penny, Middleboro' and Great, tie their bolts 40 in. 
in girth at 10 in. above the butts, and quote by the 
load. In Huntingdon, Cambridge, Eastern Counties 
and Berkshire the actual growers frequently decline to 
do business unless the buyer will take the entire crop. 
This plan is very inconvenient, for it often happens that 
a buyer who has contracted to take the entire produce 
finds himself overdone with a size of material not well 
adapted for his particular class of work, and the makers 

Fig. II. — Machine for Tying Willow Rods. 

A very simple and efficient machine suitable for growers who are not 

expert tyers. 

Fig. 12. — Machine for tying Willow Rods into Bundles. 
The rods are "pricked in" round the band, so as to fill up every crevice. 

To face page 72. 


of special goods are forced to purchase from rod mer- 
chants. The profits of these middlemen might just as 
weU be obtained by the growers. 

There are no established markets for willows in this 
country. In the West of England auction sales are 
held annually, when fields are sold at prices which have 
realised up to £19 los. per acre in the autumn of 1917, 
the purchaser to cut and harvest the crop. The average 
over a considerable area worked out at about £18. Also 
here and elsewhere the buying is in the hands of 
merchants and manufacturers, who regularly visit the 
willow-growing centres towards the end of the growing 
period to judge the value of the crop when standing 
and to purchase any dry material which the growers 
may have in stock. Frequently sales are effected by 
the forwarding of samples. Sewage-farm grown willows 
are often advertised for sale by tender. 

If, as is invariably the ca§e, some part of every crop 
— especially the outside portion of the bed — is inferior 
or rough, it will be found best to lay such material on 
one side for brown, or, if peeled, tie it up by itself and 
sell according to its value. 

The export business, at one time of considerable 
value, has been much neglected in this country. The 
growers in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, whose 
crops twenty years ago were frequently shipped as 
white, have for years sold their crops as gieen before 
Christmas for buffing. Consequently very limited 
quantities have been available for export. This trade 
has been absorbed by the Belgians, Dutch, Germans, 
and French. The export business has since- the war 
largely recovered itself, and if attention is given to 
the proper grading of qualities, there is every prospect 
of the trade being retained. 



Few plants are more subject to the attacks of 
insects than willows or osiers, and in any season the 
crop may be so damaged as to be almost worthless. 
The fungus diseases, on the other hand, are not so 
numerous. It is only possible to deal here with a few 
of these pests, most of which will already be familiar 
to growers, though in many cases they have no well- 
known English names. They may, as a rule, be 
recognised by the type of injury they cause, and it may, 
therefore, be convenient in the first place to describe 
certain characteristic attacks to enable the grower to 
recognise the pest by which his crop is damaged. The 
types of injury are divided into (I) those which affect 
the leaves, the top or terminal bud or shoot of the 
rod ; (II) those which affect the rod itself ; (III) those 
which affect the stump. 

The following table is intended to assist the grower 
in recognising the pests by which his beds are attacked. 

/. — Damage to Leaves and Terminal Buds 

(a) Leaves and shoots eaten by dark green or blue 
beetles (which fall but do not jump when disturbed) 
or by their larvae, which are blackish or yellowish 
grubs, sometimes known as Army Worms. See also 



// {a) below. Common Willow Beetles [Phyllodecta 
vitelluicB and P. vulgatissima). 

(6) Similar damage, but light brown beetles present. 
Galerucella Beetle {Galerucdla lineola). 

(c) Leaves eaten by livid blue and orange cater- 
pillars. Willow Sawfly [Nematus salicis). 

(d) Leaves with yellow or red lumps on them. 
Willow Gall Sawflies, Pontania salicis, and others. 

(e) Leaves and young shoots covered with black or 
green fly or " blight," or with sticky honey dew, or 
with honey dew and black mould. Willow Aphides 
(various species). 

(/) Terminal or end bud of shoot tied up with a few 
fine strands of silk and often containing a brown 
chrysalis or a small caterpillar which feeds on the 
young growing leaves. See also II [a) below. Small 
Willow Cloths (various species). 

(g) Terminal or end bud in the form of small rosette 
or button, often known as " button top." Gall ^lidges 
{Cecidomyia heterohia and C. rosaria, etc). 

{h) Leaves covered, especially on the underside, with 
orange-yellow spots. Spots brown later in the season. 
Willow Rust, caused by the fungus Melampsora. 

II. — Damage to Rods. 

{a) Rods with lateral or branch shoots near the top, 
usually shorter than normal rods, often known as 
" bushy topped." This injury is usually the result 
of the destruction of the terminal bud when the rod 
is growing. Willow Beetles, \Mllow Moths, Aphides, 
and, perhaps. Gall Midges. 

(6) Rod covered with black fly or blight, the 


insects closely crowded together and often killing 
the rod. Willow Aphides (especially M elanoxanthe- 
rium salicis). 

[c) Young rod in early summer broken as if by 
wind, but close examination shows a hole or puncture 
at the point where the break occurred. Willow 
Weevil {Cryptorrhynchus lapathi). 

{d) Rods, especially of two years' growth, with 
minute pin-holes through the bark near the base. 
Inside are small burrows often containing minute 
orange red (or green?) grubs. Willow Wood Midge 
{Cecidomyia saliciperda). 

{e) Rods, mainly when of two or more years' growth, 
with a channel bored up the centre near the base, 
sometimes containing a white grub or a beetle. Willow 
Weevil or Willow Clear wing Moths. 

(/) Cankerous wounds on the rod. Developing 
mostly in winter. Wounds not preceded by elongated 
orange yellow pustules. Willow Canker, caused by 
the fungus Botryosphceria gregaria. 

(g) Cankerous wounds on the younger portion of fl 
the rods. Always preceded by elongated orange 
yellow pustules which are found in summer. Rust 
Canker, due to wounds formed by the rust fungus 

III. — Damage to Stumps 

Stumps with burrows and channels, often dying and 
containing white grubs, chrysalides, or beetles. Willow 
Weevil, Musk Beetle, Willow Clearwing Moths. 

The following sections deal in greater detail with 
the insects and fungi themselves. - 


Insect Pests 

Willow Aphides. — There are several species of 
aphides which attack willows, and, on the whole, they 
are, perhaps, the most serious pest with which the 
grower has to contend. By sucking the juices of the 
plants, they stunt and kill both leaves and rods. 
They also secrete large quantities of honey dew w^hich 
falls on the leaves, coating them over with a kind of 
varnish, and greatly accentuating the damage done by 
the insects themselves. Further, a black fimgus or 
" mould," commonly grows on the honey dew, coating 
the leaves still further, and making it impossible for 
them to carry out their functions. It should be 
emphasised that the honey dew is always the product 
of the aphides, and is not a separate form of blight 
due to climatic conditions, an opinion which is commonly 
held but which is quite erroneous. 

It is unnecessary here to enter into the features by 
which the various species are distinguished, and, in 
many cases, their habits require further investigation. 
It may, however, be mentioned that certain common 
species [Siphocoryne caprece and 5. pastinacece) Uve 
partly on the willow and partly on weeds such as 
hemlock, wild parsnip, chervil, angelica, etc. {Umbel- 
Uferce), and special attention should, therefore, be paid 
to the eradication of such weeds. 

Species of Aphis common on the leaves and shoots 
are Aphis saliceti, the two species above mentioned, 
and Pterocoma pilosa. The most common species on 
the rod itself is Melanoxantherium salicis. 

Willow Beetles {Phyllodecta vitellincB,P. vulgatissima). 
— In the adult state these insects are shining dark 
green or blue beetles. They first appear in spring 


and early summer and at once attack the developing 
shoots and leaves, causing great injury by eating into 
the growing point of the rod. Eggs are laid in 
groups on the underside of the leaves, and in a 
short time produce small dirty grey or yellow coloured 
grubs or larvae, which at first remain together eating 
away the underside of the leaf. Later, as they grow 
larger, they spread to other leaves, devouring each so 
that only the upper paper-like cuticle is left, and, in 
severe cases, all the leaves on the plants are killed. 
When full fed, the larvae fall to the earth and change 
into pupae from which beetles are produced. There 
are two broods of beetles in the season, but the genera- 
tions overlap somewhat, so that beetles and larvae are 
often found together. The beetles of the second brood 
leave the rods in autumn and crawl into heaps of 
rubbish, under the bark, and into the crevices in 
pollard willows, and shelter there during the winter, 
reappearing to attack the willows again the following 

Beetles of the genus Phyllodecta are common all over 
the country, and all willow-growing areas are subject 
to their attacks. They are perhaps especially harmful 
in the Midland and East Anglian districts. 

Galerucella Beetle {Galerucella lineola). — This insect 
in the adult state is a yellow brown beetle with dark 
markings on the upper surface. In its life-history and 
habits, with the exception of certain minor differences, 
it resembles the Phyllodecta beetles just described. It 
appears, however, to spend the winter in damper places, 
and is specially harmful in the Somerset district. 

Willow Weevil {Cryptorrhynchus lapathi). — This 
beetle, on account of its long trunk or proboscis is 
sometimes known as the elephant beetle. It is partly 


blackish-brown in colour and partly yellow (or pink 
when freshly emerged). 

The adult beetle appears from early simimer onwards, 
and may be foimd clinging to the rod with its trunk 
buried in the soft growing portion, which subsequently 
bends over as if broken by the wind. At the smallest 
disturbance the beetle falls to the ground and remains 
motionless, looking very hke a bird dropping. Eggs 
are laid in the stimips or rods { ?) and produce white, 
grub-hke larvae which burrow in the stumps and 
sometimes up into rods of two years' growth. Cryptor- 
rhynchus larvae have no legs, which distinguishes them 
from the larvae of the clearwing moths, and they are 
round and somewhat short, and so differ from the 
• larvae of the Musk Beetle, which are rather long and flat. 
When full "fed they pupate in the burrows and the 
beetles emerge from the pupae in the autumn, but^em 
to remain in the burrow until the following spring. 

Cryptorrhynchus lapaihi attacks alder as well as 
willow, and is common in all willow-growing areas, 
notably in Somerset. It is a serious pest, for in 
addition to the annual destruction of a large number 
of rods by the adult, the larva does great injury to the 

Musk Beetle [Aromia moschata). — This insect is a 
large, shining blue or green beetle with long antennae. 
When disturbed it gives out a strong musky smell. 
The larva is a large white grub, legless, and rather 
long and flat in shape. It feeds in pollard willot/ trees 
and in old willow stumps, especially when these are 
grown with a " long leg." It can hardly be regarded 
as a serious pest when willows are well grown, but is 
worthy of mention as it is so large and conspicuous 
that it is apt to excite interest. - 


Willow Sawfly {Nematus salicis). — Reference is made 
to this insect as it causes much loss on the Continent 
and occasionally does so in this country. The larva 
is a Uvid blue and orange caterpillar which feeds on 
the willow leaves and may completely defoliate the 
rods. It can hardly be confused with any other pest. 
Recently notes of serious damage have only been 
received from the Peterborough district, and informa- 
tion in the event of further attacks would be welcomed. 

Willow Gall Sawflies [Pontania gallicola) . — There are 
also other species of sawfly besides N. salicis which 
may be expected at times to do damage. Enquiry is 
often made as to the cause of the red and green globular 
or bean-shaped swellings which are so common on the 
leaves of willows. The insects responsible are certain 
species of gall sawfly, of which that mentioned above 
is most common. The sawfly larva lives in the gall, 
and when full fed burrows out and pupates in the 
soil. Unless the galls are so numerous as to weigh 
down the rods, the injury does not seem to be serious. 

Willow Moths. — The larvae of many different moths 
feed on willow, but with certain exceptions they are 
seldom present in sufficient numbers to do serious 
harm. The exceptions comprise (i) various species 
of small moth, the larvae of which feed in spring and 
summer in the terminal shoot of the rod; (2) certain 
clearwing moths whose larvae burrow in the stumps 
and in the rods. 

(i) Further investigation is required before the life- 
history of each species can be described in detail. 
The larvae first become noticeable in late spring when 
they spin together a few leaves at the tips of the grow- 
ing rods, forming small tubes or nests, one larva only 
being found in each shoot. They feed on the growing 


buds and leaves, and when full fed change into brown 
chrysalides in the nests, from which in due course the 
moths emerge. The damage is serious, since it prevents 
the rod from attaining its full length and also, owing 
to the destruction of the growing point, encourages 
the production of lateral shoots, a condition known as 
" bushy top." So far as the Somerset district is 
concerned the most common species are Hypermcecia 
cruciana and Depressaria center minella. 

(2) There are two species of willow clearwing moth, 
of which the first, Trochilium bemhecifortne, the Willow 
Hornet Clearwing, so closely resembles a large wasp or 
hornet that it may readily be passed over. The second 
species, the Red Tipped Clearwing {Sesia fomiccBJorme) 
also has little resemblance to a moth, and is perhaps 
more Uke an ichneumon fly. The larvae of these moths 
are white, grub-like caterpillars with brown heads and 
eight pairs of legs, which are small but evident. The 
Hornet Clearwing larva Uves inside the stumps and 
especially in rods of two years' growth or more. The 
larva of the Red Tipped Clearwing Uves mainly on the 
stumps. The larvae of both species pupate in the 
spring in the burrows, and the moths emerge in June 
and July. The damage done by these insects is not 
very evident unless a few stumps are cut open, when it 
is often found that the wood is tunnelled in all direc- 
tions by the larvae, which at first reduce the produc- 
tiveness of the stump and later kill it altogether. 
These two species and the Willow Weevil {Cryptor- 
rhynchus lapathi) are the insects chiefly responsible 
for the decay of stumps. 

Willow Gall Midges. — ^These insects in the adult 
stage are minute midges or flies. The most injurious 
species lay eggs in the terminal buds of the rods, which 


subsequently fail to develop normally and become 
bunched together or form a distinct rosette. These 
galls are usually known as buttons or button tops. 
In the galls are found one or more minute orange-red 
larvae, which, when full fed, either pupate in the galls 
or fall out and pupate in the soil. There appear to be 
two generations in the year, and it is believed that 
the winter is spent as a larva in the galls, but statements 
on these points do not always agree. 

The most injurious species is known as Cecidormyia 
heterohia, and may be recognised by the fact that the 
buttons contain many larvae and are rather shapeless, 
not as a rule in the form of a neat rosette. A second 
species, Cecidormyia rosaria, produces galls which may 
be distinguished by the fact that they each contain 
only one larva and are rosette-shaped. 

The injury done by these insects is decidedly serious, 
since attacked rods are stunted and may also be 
" bushy topped." 

There are several other species of gall midge which 
attack willows, but mention need only be made of the 
willow wood midge, Cecidormyia saliciperda. The larvae 
of this insect live in burrows in the rods, usually near 
the base. They pupate in the burrows and the flies 
emerge, through minute pin-holes in the bark. The 
winter is spent in the larval condition in the rods. 

Attacked rods which are more often of two years' 
growth are of little value, as the attacked' portion is 
weak and must be cut away. 

Methods of Control. — No suggestions as to practical 
methods of control have been given in the preceding 
sections since the few forms of treatment known may 
be applied in the case of attack by several kinds of 
pest. Notes under this heading may be divided into 


(i) direct measures which may be adopted when an 
attack is expected or is actually in progress; (2) in- 
direct measures which will tend to reduce the numbers 
of the various pests in the beds and so prevent further 

(i) Direct Measures. — As a matter of general prin- 
ciple, when the foHage of any plant is being eaten by 
beetles or caterpillars, the first measure to be considered 
is some form of poisonous spray which will leave a 
coating of poison on the leaves and so kill the insects 
as they feed. The poison most commonly used for 
this _purpose is lead arsenate, but it should be noted 
that in the case of the basket willows grown in this 
country, spraying with lead arsenate has proved a 
complete failure, probably on account of the fact that 
the leaves have such a smooth surface that the poison 
cannot stick on. If this explanation is correct, the 
difficulty should be easily overcome; but until a 
formula has been proved successful by experiment, it 
is suggested that in the case of aU attacks b}' leaf- 
eating beetles, caterpillars, or grubs, a wash containing 
nicotine and soap should be used. Insecticides of this 
nature have been found efficient in practice, and 
their application is treated below in connection with 

When plants are attacl^d by aphides or other 
insects which feed by sucking up the juices of the 
plant and not by eating the solid parts, it is necessary 
to use a contact insecticide, that is to say, an insecti- 
cide which kills those insects which are touched by it. 
There are several such washes, but the only one which 
seems to have been properly tested on wiUow^s is 
nicotine, which is undoubtedly the best contact insecti- 
cide known. It has also the additional advantage of 


being quite efficient when used against leaf-eating 
insects, such as willow beetles. The great drawback 
to it is its expense, but this is, at least in part, balanced 
by the number of different pests which it can destroy. 
It is now widely used in the Somerset district, and 
some growers are so satisfied with the results that they 
spray regularly with it as a preventive, even though 
no insects are at the moment doing any injury. When 
used in this way it must be looked on as a form of 

The following details of the costs of spraying were 
obtained from the Somerset growers who usually use 
a proprietary nicotine and soap mixture : — 

Amount of spray fluid used per acre, 40-60 gallons. 
Cost of spray fluid per gallon, id. to x'^d. 

i. e. 5 gallons cost ^d. to 6i. 
Cost of spray fluid for i acre, 3s. ^d. to 6s. 
Cost of labour per acre (piece-work), 2s. 6d. 
Amount which one man can spray in one day using 
knapsack sprayer, i acre to 2 acres. 

Messrs. Bradford's figures : — 

40 gallons of water. 

i^ lb. Nico-soap at 25. per i lb. 

i. e. 3s. per acre. 
Man spray 2 acres a day on piece-work at 2S. 6d. per acre. 

i. e. cost 5s. 6d. per acre. 

It is probable that the cost of nico-soap has risen 
beyond the original price of £1 per 10 lb. 

Messrs. Bradford estimate the cost of material as 
slightly less than that given above, but these details 
are, of course, only approximate, since, in the first 
place, the amount of fluid used will vary in accordance 
with the size of the rods; and secondly, the price of 
nicotine is Uable to fluctuation. 

The percentage of nicotine in these proprietary 


insecticides cannot be stated, but those who \vish to 
make up their own wash \\ith a known nicotine content 
might try the following formula, varying it from time 
to time to find the minimum percentage of nicotine 
which is effective : — 

Nicotine 98 per cent. . 3 oz. 

Soft soap ... 2 lb.-4 lb. (latter 

if water is some- 
what hard). 

Water . . .40 gallons. 

The number of times which it is necessary to spray 
is also variable ; sometimes as many as three applica- 
tions are made as a regular routine, but it is probable 
that if the willows are well sprayed in late May or 
early June it will seldom be necessary to -spray again 
the same year. 

Apart from spraying which will deal with aphides, 
leaf-eating grubs and beetles, and to a less extent with 
the moth caterpillars which Uve in the shoots, no other 
direct measures for control can be recommended for 
actual experience. On the Continent the leaf-eating 
\\illow beetles are caught by various forms of apparatus 
by means of which the insects are shaken off into trays, 
and some such method might be of ser\4ce in this 
country in the case of the Willow W^ee.vil {Cryptor- 
rhynchus lapathi) , against which sprays are useless. No 
control measures are known in the case of the midges 
causing button top or in those of the various insects 
which burrow in the stumps or rods. In button top, 
however, assuming that the insects pass the winter 
in the buttons, and remembering that affected rods 
are usually of Uttle value, it seems regrettable that 
such rods should be left about in the neighbourhood 


of the beds until the late spring, when the midges 
will emerge and attack the new crop. 

(2) Indirect Measures. — In addition to the direct 
measures of control which can be applied to the grow- 
ing crop there are certain precautionaiy measures 
which are worth consideration as they would tend to 
prevent the necessity for spraying. It has been 
pointed out that willow beetles spend the winter in 
heaps of rubbish, under bark, etc. It is, therefore, 
obvious that all such heaps left until the spring are 
a source of danger, while equally, if they are burnt 
during the winter, they will have acted as traps, and 
allowed the easy destruction of many pests. In the 
same way it is probably a mistake to allow old pollarded 
willows — ^however picturesque — ^to remain close to 
willow beds. They are always thoroughly infested by 
willow-feeding insects of all kinds, and must act as 
centres from which these insects spread to the neigh- 
bouring beds. If willow trees are needed they should 
be of a variety which will pay for proper attention, 
and they should not be pollarded. Neglected and 
decayed willows, poplars or alders are all undesirable 
in the neighbourhood of willow beds. 

Willow stumps which are partly dead or weak are 
usually attacked by the insects which burrow inside, 
such as the larvae of Cryptorrhynchus lapathi and of 
the clear wing moths. Such stumps should be removed 
and burnt as soon as the rods are cut. If they are 
left, the insects will emerge and attack fresh stumps, 
and the bed will gradually become unproductive. 



There are in Great Britain only two species, known 
in the trade as White and Red Willow, that produce 
commercial timber, but of each there are several 
varieties and local forms. The wood of the White 
Willow is always more or less tinged with red, but the 
Red variety is decidedly redder than the White and 
finer and closer in its grain, and the timber is heavier 
per cubic foot ; but as my object is not to go into small 
botanical details, but to confine myself mainly to the 
practical features, reference will be made only to those 
for which there is a large commercial outlet. 

The species are — 

(i) The Salix fragilis, or WTiite Willow, knowTi also 
as the Crack Willow, easily distinguished by its open 
or coarse bark, with deep corrugations and with a 
deeply serrated leaf double the size of the Red Willow. 

(2) The Salix rubra, or Red Willow, is easily dis- 
tinguished from the WTiite by its finer, closer and much 
shallower corrugations on the bark, and by its smaller 
and very finely serrated leaves. 

Both these willows may be seen growing in every 
part of the British Isles, mostly as pollarded trees, 
which destroys their commercial value, excepting for 
fencing poles or bobbin turners. 

The Salix ccerulea, or Blue Willow, also known as 
the Cricket Bat Willow, or Close Bark Willow, is an 



intermediate variety between the ordinary red and 
white species and is clearly distinguished by the blue 
tone of the foliage, whence its name is derived. Its 
habit of growth is marked by an upright or pyramidal 
character, not spreading out to anything like the same 
angle as the two species previously named. In all 
other respects as to size of foliage and serrations it is 
very similar to the ordinary Red Willow. 

This variety of the Red Willow has found the 
greatest favour and realised the most fancy prices. 
Its main branches (see illustration) grow at angles of 
30 to 45 degrees. At the Agricultural Show held at 
Nottingham in 1915, when I exhibited specimens of 
the Caerulea variety growing in tubs, several manu- 
facturers of high-class cricket bats assured me that 
they had paid in isolated instances as much as £100 
for a single tree; whilst the prevailing prices at that 
period (1914-15) for the best grown Caerulea reached 
14s. per cubic foot, and ordinary qualities of the Red 
Willow realised 5s. to los. per cubic foot — prices 
sufficient to justify an extended cultivation. It will 
be found to do best in a rich loam with heavy subsoil. 

The so-called Huntingdon Willow is a variety of the 
ordinary White Willow, and up to a comparatively 
few years since was regarded as an ideal kind for 
cricket-bat making. The Red WiUow is also largely 
grown in the Huntingdon and adjoining districts. A 
colleague of mine planted in the Leicester district a 
White Huntingdon Willow in rich alluvial soil. ' At 
eight years old it had grown to a height of 35 ft., and its 
circumference at i ft. from the ground was 33 in. 
Another of the same variety, planted on gravelly soil, 
reached 24 ft. in height, and at a foot from the ground 
measured 23 in. in circumference; a third planted in 



^'^ .'•'^K «?A<^ 

Fig. 13. — A Willow Tree. 

To face page 88. 


a peaty soil, with a subsoil oi clay, only attained 26 ft. 
in height and had a girth of 24 in. at a foot from the 
ground. These expermients show the class of soil on 
which this \\illow gives the best results. 

On page 1520 of Loudon's Arboretum Britannicum 
reference is made to a cutting planted by Mr. Bro\\'n 
of Hetherset, Norfolk, that in ten years became a tree 
of 35 ft. in height, with a girth of 5, ft. The same 
publication cites a twenty years' tree at Audley End, 
Essex, which reached 53 ft. in height and 7 ft. 6 in. 
in girth. 

In the Kew Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information 
No. 8, 1907 (p. 311, No. L.), in an article by W. J. 
Bean, Esq., on the Cricket Bat WiUow, it is stated 
that " No question in connection with profitable tree- 
planting has roused greater interest in recent years 
than that as to the kind of wallow best adapted for the 
manufacture of cricket bats. It has only attained 
importance in recent times because it is only lately 
that the supplies of the best bat willow have become 
seriously limited, and that prices have risen in pro- 
portion. At a sale of willows of Sir Walter Gilbey's 
at Sawbridgeworth in February, 1906, the best bat 
willow reahsed prices estimated to be equivalent to 
ys. per cubic foot. I have recently been informed by 
the agent of a large estate in Essex that he had de- 
clined an offer of £1500 for 100 of the best willow trees 
on the estate, and Mr. John Shaw, of the well-known 
firm of Shaw & Shrewsbury, Nottingham, last winter 
offered £40 for a tree. When it is known that trees 
have been known in favourable situations to reach a 
saleable size in twelve years (having in that period 
attained a girth of 50 in.) these prices show that there 
is no timber so profitable at the present time as that 


of the cricket-bat willow. It is not surprising, there- 
fore, that owners of land suitable should have been 
attracted by this tree. As a matter of fact a large 
number of trees have been planted during the last few 
years with a view to meeting the future demands, 
but we have it on the authority of Mr. Shaw — one of 
the largest buyers as well as a leading expert — that 
not more than one-fourth of the trees that are being 
planted are the best cricket-bat willow." 

The increasing demand for willow timber for the 
making of artificial limbs has practically denuded the 
country of supplies suitable for this purpose. I have 
received applications from French, Belgian and South 
African Government Departments, asking if this 
material is procurable in England. Unfortunately, 
in spite of many inquiries I have been unsuccessful in 
finding much of the right quality. Makers of arti- 
ficial limbs for the Allied Forces have been compelled 
to seek their supplies from America, where merchants 
have done a large and profitable business in a variety 
known in the U.S.A. as Salix nigra-Marsh, a variety 
which is not common in this country. It is recorded 
by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bulletin 
No. 316, that this variety grows to 4 ft. in diameter, 
5 ft. from the ground, and 140 ft. in height. The 
bark of this particular variety is very corky, in some 
instances being i| in. to 2 in. thick. The leaves are 
3 in. to 6 in. long, a bright green, and rather shiny. 
The timber appears, from its clean-cleaving qualities, 
to be related to our English White Willow. 

The wood of the willow is light, smooth, soft and 
extremely tough. It will bear more hard knocks 
without splinter or injury than any other wood, and 
has no rival for making cricket bats. There is nothing 


to equal it for floats for paddle steamers or the strouds 
of water-wheels, and it wears longer in water than any 
other wood. It provides the best brakes for railway 
coal-wagons and luggage trucks; it is the only wood 
that wiU stand that kind of pressure and concussion 
without fracture. Its extreme elasticity and tough- 
ness make it the best of woods for the sides and bottoms 
of carts and barrows when work such as loading coal 
or stone is required, and, were it obtainable in sufficient 
quantities, it would be the best material for construct- 
ing passenger carriages fOr our railways; since car- 
riages made of this wood would be less liable to be 
splintered by collision. The wood of the willow, Uke 
its kindred timber, the poplar, bums slowly and is 
not easily kindled, a quality which ought to be a con- 
siderable recommendation where it is necessary to use 
wood in close proximity to fire. Years ago willow 
was very largely used by powder manufacturers for 
charcoal, and was preferred to any other wood. It is 
still so employed in the U.S.A., and its discontinuance 
has only come about owing to the short supplies. The 
wood of the willow is much esteemed by painters for 
their crayons, and for domestic uses nothing is so 
suitable for making wooden bowls, Lancashire clogs, 
yokes for milkers, milk buckets, moulds for buttons, 
cutting-boards for all classes of trades requiring boards ; 
basket-makers greatly appreciate it for sieve rims, 
seed-hoppers and scuttles. 

In the remote event of any extensive planting of 
the best willow trees, an acre, if planted 3 ft. apart 
with trees of two years' growth, would require 4840. 
This would not be too close for the first eight or nine 
years, when they might be thinned out to half that 
number. The thinnings w'ould find a ready sale for 


general farm purposes. At about sixteen years they 
might be further reduced to 1210 trees — or 6 ft. apart 
each way, which would afford ample space for their 
further development. There is plenty of evidence to 
show that it is not an uncommon thing for a thirty- 
year willow tree to yield 45 ft. of measurable timber-— 
or at the rate of i| cubic ft. per annum. Not, however, 
calculating on such great results, I will further assume 
that no trees out of the 12 10 are worthless (a much 
greater margin than would be probable) ^nd that in 
forty years only one-third of the above quantity, or 
say half a foot instead of i| ft. per annum, is pro- 
duced; we shall then have iioo trees containing an 
average of 20 cubic ft. each, or 22,000 ft. worth, at 
the lowest computation, 2s. per ft., or ;^2200, as the 
produce of an acre, apart from the two thinnmgs out, 
which would be more than sufficient to cover the cost 
of labour. 

The tree willow is one of the. easiest to propagate, 
and the following will be found, a very inexpensive 
and profitable way of securing a stock. Rooted trees 
of two or three years' growth, if planted 4 ft. apart 
each way, will demand 2722 to the acre. They should 
be thinned out when six or seven years old to 12 ft. 
apart by taking out the two centre ones. When they 
are about twelve years old the trees may be further 
reduced to 300 to the acre, and at about twenty years, 
or a little more, providing the soil and conditions are 
favourable, they should be in perfect condition and of 
a saleable size. The thinnings out in this, as in the 
previous estimate, should recoup the cost by the sale 
of the poles. Or, for planting at a small cost, cuttings 
may be employed and inserted in the ground in the 
same manner as ordinary basket willow cuttings. 


The first growth must all be cut off, because the shoots, 
being short and spriggy, are useless for good trees. 
Open up the soil and add some farmyard manure to 
stimulate the growth. The following season the 
shoots will reach from 4 ft. to 6 ft. in length, or 
grow even longer. Cut away all shoots excepting 
the straightest and cleanest and leave the one single 
shoot. At twenty years, with favourable conditions, 
the growth should be sufficient to cut four bat 

Pollarding trees destroys their value as timber. 
The produce of a pollard tree can only be used for 
fencing purposes. Moreover, it harbours obnoxious 
insects, fungi, etc., and the wet gets in and deteriorates 
the interior of the w^ood. 

With all cuttings and trees that I supply, I give 
a guarantee that they are the best cricket-bat strain 
of the Caenilea. The stock was originally obtained 
from Kew Gardens, and is certified by the authorities 
as the true variety. At the time of wTiting — Decem- 
ber, 1918 — I have an vmusually well-gro\Mi stock of 
two- and three -year-old rooted plants which I am 
prepared to offer at exceedingly reasonable prices. 

Cuttings from two-year-old wood, 12 in. to 14 in. long, 
los. per 100. 

Two-year-old rooted trees, 4 ft. to 6 ft. long, 35s, per 

Three-year-old rooted trees, 6 ft. to 8 ft. long, 50s. 
per 100. 

If the trees are selected and pruned, 10 per cent, 
extra. Net cash, carriage forward, packing charges 


The period for j^anting in the British Isles is from 
November to the early part of April. 

My willow grounds and nursery contain over seventy 
different varieties set out in beds of each kind and can 
be seen by appointment by those interested in the 






In the Midlands and the North of England the cost 
of labour has risen so considerably that many acres 
of willows have passed out of cultivation. Added to 
this, there has been a depression in the local basket- 
making trade, and the small men, who are generally 
also growers, have considerably curtailed their industry 
and allowed many of their willow holts to die out. 
Large basket-making firms have increased their areas. 
The following figures from the Board of Trade returns, 
however, show that the home supply of rods is quite 
insufficient for the basket-making industry : — 

Value of the Total Imports of Willows and Canes for 
Basket-making. — Free of Duty.^ 








Netherlands . 

Java .... 

Other Dutch Possessions 


Other Foreign Countries 





14,781 ' 










i , 











Total, Foreign Countries 

Straits Settlements and 
Dependencies, including 

Other British Possessions 




3.678 : 







Total . 






^ It should be noted that the materials imported from the tropica 
for basket-making are canes and not willows, bufit is probable that 
they might be replaced by willows in many forms of basket-ware. 




Value of the Total Imports of Baskets and Basket-ware 
Free of Duty. 



1911, 1912. 





42,413 42,001 



Netherlands . 


















Switzerland . 












Japan, including Formosa 

and Japan-leased Terri- 

tories in China . 






Other Foreign Countries 






Total, Foreign Countries 






Total from British Pos- 




1. 501 



Total . 






PRINTHD IN Great Britain by Richard Clay & Sons, i.imitbd,